Is the only means for saving human civilisation through the restoration of the lost authority of the Church?
Is the only means of restoring the lost authority of the Church through the undoing of so, so much that happened in the wake of Vatican II?
Whatever the merit of these questions and however bizarre they will no doubt appear to my secular friends, I confess they work ever in the background of my consciousness.
Yet certain things trigger them. Something happens and suddenly they are there, boiling away dramatically on the frontburner.
Something like this happened recently. I received an email from an old and dear friend. His letter contained two simple sentences which hit me very profoundly:
“I am increasingly depressed by this country’s brutal corporate capitalist culture and the selfish ignorance of my fellow citizens. I’m inside of some sort of death cult.”
Now without wishing to reveal too much about my friend, I would like to say that his sentences strike me as expressive of the views of a certain category of souls today.
They are a legion of souls who look at our addiction to oil and wonder why simpler styles of life and alternatives to oil are not being more forcefully advocated at this time approaching Peak Oil.
And they are souls who see in global warming, proof positive that capitalism run amok amounts to a “death cult”.
For they are souls who are looking on in horror as the oil industry cannot let its reserves becomes “stranded assets” but must pump, pump, pump … a key agent of ruining the biosphere. Alternative sources of energy are simply not in the interests of big business, at least the short-term interests.
But to this particular category of souls which I have in mind, there is another characteristic I would like to add: They are products of the Enlightenment.
The Enlightenment which is to say, powerfully served to convince so many that human beings were relatively innocent before conditioning and not deeply fallen. This means to say, that I am invoking here the many strands of the Enlightenment which denied and ridiculed the view of human nature held by the Tradition of the Church: that human nature although originally made in the Image and Likeness of God has become compromised and is therefore in need – dire need – of Grace.
I repeat: this category of souls wonders why more is not being done. But could it be that this wondering why is rooted in a skewed appraisal of human nature fostered by the Enlightenment?
For when I read my friend writing that that he is “increasingly depressed by … the selfish ignorance of my fellow citizens”, I wonder if I hear an echo of something many, many today are with: The nasty realisation that human nature is indeed fundamentally compromised by incredible selfishness. The nasty realisation that we are not what the Enlightenment told us we were.
For what happens, I ask you rhetorically dear Reader, if you deny human fallenness through Enlightenment thinking, if you deny that human beings are in need of Grace and prayer and religion, if you deny the Sacraments, which beginning with Baptism, have been given to heal the very disordering which you deny, and having denied all this, that renders compromised human nature open to God …
You then take this fundamentally disordered human nature of which you are in denial and you recklessly CRANK UP THE VOLUME by blasting it with a million advertisements inciting consumerist desire?
A million advertisements from the child´s earliest years, mind you …
Is it any wonder that this denied fallenness becomes even more powerful?
On this note, might I add here I was recently very gratified to see this post by a young Catholic blogger about the correlation of pornography and sexual violence. I was moved to read him writing honestly:
Anybody in the UK who watches the news will have picked up that in recent years we have had what seems to be a massive rise in teenagers sexually assaulting other young people … I find it incredibly worrying how pornography is easily accessed. .. I must confess I have found it incredibly hard as a young person growing up in the midst of all of this. I have found it even more difficult since I took the free decision to take the message of the Gospel seriously.
Is it any wonder, I would like to repeat. that if you bombard from puberty onwards, the sexual tendencies of fallen male nature with provocative imagery you will see sexual disorder, if not outright violence?
The by-today’s-standards very tame novel Lady Chatterley´s Lover of D. H. Lawrence was only published in Britain in 1960 and even then was the subject of prosecution. Until a few decades ago, people understood that there was something of importance behind the taboos against publishing graphic sexuality.
The young unknown friend above confesses honestly that it is “incredibly hard” for him as a young man today. May I also confess honestly, that if I were a young man on the internet today, it would be incredibly hard for me, as well? I am weak. I am fallen.
We are fallen. Deeply fallen. Our own fallen selfish nature without Grace is capable of little indeed. But we live in a culture that fosters the idea that we are not fallen and thus that we are not in need of Grace.
And on the back of these assumptions, we create a culture that only cranks up the volume on our fallenness.
But before the Enlightenment, we lived once in a culture with a very different set of assumptions. It was a culture that fundamentally assumed we needed a Saviour. It was a culture that was not too proud to admit that. It was a culture that still had in many places at least, the Sacrament of Confession.
Now, my dear friend´s words about a death cult evoked for me, as I say a certain legion of souls. A legion of souls who feel despair, hopelessness. A legion of souls who have only a paradigm sprung from the Enlightenment to work with …
I do not feel such despair. But then by the Grace of God, I was given a very different paradigm to that of the Enlightenment. By the Grace of God, I found the Church and began to confess my fallenness in every Mass I went to. Mea Culpa. Mea Culpa. Mea Maxima Culpa. And in the Sacrament of Confession as well, I began to stop denying my fallenness.
I still have a long way to go, of course. I am still in denial of my weakness, my brokenness, my disfigurement by Original Sin …
But by the Grace of Our Lord Jesus Christ through the Sacraments of His Church, I at least begin the process of confronting the darkness of my fallen human nature and also of knowing that at the same time, I am loved …
No I do not feel the hopelessness that I think many stuck in an Enlightenment paradigm feel today.
But unlike certain traditionalists who it seems to me are in denial of ecological ruin, I do believe global capitalism is very dangerously out of control.
And concerning all this, I take heart in what the Holy Father has recently said in clear reference to the failure at Copenhagen, where invoking “a current self-centred and materialistic way of thinking which fails to acknowledge the limitations inherent in every creature,” he went further on to say:
Twenty years ago, after the [collapse of communism], was it not easy to assess the great harm which an economic system lacking any reference to the truth about man had done … to nature itself, by polluting soil, water and air? The denial of God distorts the freedom of the human person, yet it also devastates creation.
For this reason I share the growing concern caused by economic and political resistance to combating the degradation of the environment.
This problem was evident even recently, during the … Convention on Climate Change held in Copenhagen from 7 to 18 December last … The issue is all the more important in that the very future of some nations is at stake, particularly some island states [Emphasis mine].
Now for centuries the Papacy has been versed in diplomacy. And the Holy Father is, as ever, speaking diplomatically. But his message is clear – global warming is threatening “the very future of some nations.”
I pray that certain (good) Catholic traditionalists will listen very deeply to our Holy Father.
And I pray that secularists will look again at their cherished Enlightenment assumptions, underpinning and sustaining our consumerist and materialistic civilisation.
For without undoing these assumptions, I fear my old friend is right: We are in a Death Cult.
To be continued …