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Saturday, 29 November 2014

The Pestilence in The Church

The great individualism which demolished Christendom during the Protestant Revolt, with sola fide, sola Scriptura, sola gratia, solus Christus and soli Deo Gloriam, reached the pinnacle of usage for individuals of faith in the 20th century.

Authority and guidance from both the Teaching Magisterium and Tradition were replaced by radical theories involving the sole authority for truth as resting with each individual. Sadly, some Catholics misunderstood the entire debate about conscience and fell into the trap of disregarding Rome entirely. Such were those who rejected Humanae Vitae, for example.

The energy for the five solaes comes from anti-intellectualism. Subjective religion needs no laws, no teaching, no guidelines, only one's own good will.  Sincerity replaces scholarship, personal belief replaces the heritage of 2,000 years, and a pestilence of anti-intellectualism spreads into prayer groups, publishing houses, chancery offices and seminaries. The fact that a course on Aquinas can be, for example, like Latin, an elective, indicates the depth of the illness in priestly formation in some seminaries.

I call anti-intellectualism an illness because it sickens the soul, which will then shrivel up and die from starvation owing to a lack objectivity. The fact that so many Catholics think, truly believe, that most of the saints did not have an intellectual faith is a delirium of this illness. No one can be holy without objectivity.

Good people forget that St. John of the Cross studied Aquinas, that the great Teresa had scholars to help her in her spiritual life, or that Ignatius insisted that discernment rested on the solid basis of Scriptural studies and exegesis.

To be anti-intellectual indicates that the pestilence has infected the brain as well as the soul. Rationality has, until the last century, been the mark of a good, solid Catholic upbringing, even among those who never went to college. What had been heard from the pulpit carried over to daily life, decision-making, prayer.

The details of whether one favors Augustine and Plato over Aquinas and Aristotle do not matter, But, what matters is that every Catholic adult can reason out the great questions and answers of the Faith and of the life of perfection. Holiness must include a redeemed and trained intellect.

Without a foundation of thought, religion becomes pure sentiment, the emotional response to experience only, and not the great combination of the intellect, will, soul and heart.

God gave us the Greeks to form our rationality, the Romans to form our laws, and the Jews to purify our hearts. How easily it is forgotten that it was the monks who preserved classical education and invented both the primary and university school systems, improved by the Dominicans later, as well as the Jesuits, all returning to classical education.

It was St. Anselm who reintroduced the Trivium and the Quadrivium into the seminaries, for the formation of priests, which led to these curricula moving into the secular universities centuries later.

That there are Catholics who fall into anti-intellectualism indicates a denial of their own heritage and faith formation.

This pestilence seems to be growing instead of abating, and the recent lack of intellectual discipline at the Synod indicates how prevalent this sickness has become. I hear Catholics decrying the Synod as the result of too many intellectuals, when the problem is exactly the opposite-not enough Catholic intellectuals-cardinals who have not learned how to think through problems and are reacting in knee-jerk fashion emotionally took over the discussion because of the lack of intellectual Catholicism.

Until lay people and priests stop pushing the need for emotional conversion instead of real conversion, which begins with metanoia, the changing of the mind, this pestilence will grow.

The dying of the light of the intellect in the Church must be remedied, healed, by new light sparked from the embers of Thomism, Augustinianism, and other disciplines of the mind.

I hope it is not too late for such a Renaissance, no matter how small.