Without pretending to give the topic the full treatment it is due, permit me to make the off-the-cuff observation that “aesthetic Catholicism,” a semi-intellectual posture predicated upon making the Faith a lifestyle choice, is now in full swing among certain circles of young(ish) Christians who think posting selfies which look like they were lifted from a Terrence Malick film and quoting Chesterton sets them apart. Granted, this “brand” of contemporary Catholic posturing is exponentially less noxious than the “bourgeois Catholicism” which is normative in most parts of the Western Catholic world today. If there an ideological glue binding both camps together it is papalotry, or a certain type of papalotry where the “Pope is the Faith; the Faith is the Pope.” Make any mention that Christ had 12 Apostles rather than one and all of these well-intentioned, well-meaning Catholics will start murmuring about your “crypto-Protestantism” and “lack of obedience” to the Holy Father. (And what of God the Father? He’s secondary.) What splits these two camps is how they internalize the magisterium, or a certain reading of the magisterium. The “bourgeois Catholic” believes that the Church provides a pathway to being both in the world and of it with nary a second thought. Liberalism can and will save us. The “aesthetic Catholic” thinks salvation comes from Bernie Sanders and microbreweries.
All of these nonsense abides above and beyond classic distinctions between conservative and traditional Catholics. As mind-boggling as it may be, many a “bourgeois Catholic” positively embraces the Tridentine Mass and may have even read an article or two from the Summa one time. The “aesthetic Catholic” likes the Tridentine Mass, too, because it is (superficially) counter-cultural, “beautiful,” and all that jazz. What both groups seem to be missing is an eschatological horizon, a sense that Christ came to lead all souls to Heaven not make the historical conditions ripe for alt-country music or golf courses. On a lower level, one might suspect there is a general lack of seriousness among both camps — the same lack of seriousness one finds among all liberals. (And do not get me wrong, dear reader: “aesthetic” and “bourgeois Catholics” are both thoroughly liberal in orientation.)