The journey from Liberal to Conservative …
This is a subject on which I ponder a great deal, having made a long trek in my lifetime across a number of stations, from New Age to liberal Protestant to liberal Catholic to finally a Catholic who feels he must do all he can to defend the Tradition.
Although this is the subject of years of reflexion, it nonetheless becomes stimulated by certain events, including feedback I receive about this site. There is the public feedback from Edwin at the last entry and there is private feedback.
It is with a synthesis of all of this in mind that I intend to speak – rather than solely in reference to any one particular individual.
Friends, known and unknown, particularly friends of a more liberal persuasion than myself, I am poignantly aware, and have been long before any feedback, for the possibility of this site to be construed as simplistically one-sided, polarising, black and white.
I am poignantly aware of it, because my earlier, more liberal versions of myself might have accused my present self of the very same thing. And I do not forget the views once held by my more liberal self …
For example, Edwin in his comments to his last entry has enjoined me to remember certain things. And to remember implies that one has forgotten …
But what if it is the case that more traditional Catholics have not so much unconsciously forgotten certain things – but have consciously renounced them?
Or what if it is the case that more traditional Catholics do not so much forget things, but remember OTHER different things, which their more liberal brothers and sisters forget – their liberal brothers and sisters who at first blush, may seem so much more tolerant, open and charitable, less black and white, less reactionary?
This is to suggest that in our supposedly tolerant, liberal modern paradigm, it is often assumed that conservative dissenters are nothing but simplistic, kneejerk fundamentalists.
This is a complex subject I hope to explore more fully in time.
For the moment, in my own journey from liberal to conservative, I draw a certain inspiration from two very great Catholics, who it seems to me made a journey with a certain degree of analogy to my own. A certain limited degree of analogy I think I should stress, for my own journey is far more bumbling and inept by comparison to their profound journeys!
The first is the journey of the Holy Father – one of the “pioneering” liberals of the Vatican II revolution. Did Joseph Ratzinger forget his more “liberal, open and tolerant” views of the 1960s or did he remember something he deemed of greater importance?
To one extent or another, I have been pondering the journey of Joseph Ratzinger for a number of years now. People have really failed to understand the journey of the Holy Father, I believe.
Somewhere in his books on the subject, John L Allen invokes an image from Star Wars. To the best of my memory, it goes something like this: Dumbfounded liberals scratching their heads and asking: “Why, O why, did Ratzinger the promising young Jedi knight, once beloved of liberals such as Hans Küng, go over to the “Dark Side of the Force” …?” (Hans Küng was responsible for Ratzinger getting his post at Tübingen!)
Having studied Ratzinger’s journey, I have come to believe it has been one of ever deepening contemplation and love. I believe that the Holy Father became more conscious of treasures of Christianity that were being compromised by a supposed charitable and open attitude. I also believe that the Holy Father became far more aware as he grew older of the power of darkness working in the world …
Liberal Catholics are often uncomfortable speaking about Evil. As are New Agers. I think in both cases, they are wary of stigmatising people. Such aspiration to tolerance can be noble in origin, but we will not become tolerant by forgetting that Evil exists. I fear rather the reverse: those who forget the Power of Evil and who deny it for the sake of an upbeat, freely accepting attitude may end up becoming far more judgmental and intolerant when they see human nature inevitably succumbing to Original Sin …
Yes I think the Holy Father became far more conservative and less apparently ecumenical, as he realised to an ever deeper degree, the dark powers of the will for corrupting, twisting and obscuring the Catholic Mystery.
And I believe he did so very conscientously. I think he once consciously and publicly acknowledged one of his major initiatives to be an “ecumenical train wreck”. But I do not think he did so with regret.
Though if he did not speak with regret, I am confident he will have experienced profound sadness. For I am sure the Holy Father takes no pleasure at all in disappointing sincere people. But he does what he does, after many years of intensive contemplation and consideration.
Did the Holy Father become less charitable in his journey from “open, tolerant liberal” to Defender of Tradition? To my mind, the answer is clear: his journey has been one of greater charity and greater wisdom and consciousness. It is a journey of love.
If I may return to Edwin’s comments once more:
“Exposure to other faiths may reveal things about Christianity that were buried or forgotten.”
This perhaps expresses a very common idea in many circles. At least, when I was a New Ager it was a “no-brainer” that Christianity was lacking its forgotten, buried treasures.
(I do not know if this is what you meant Edwin and in any event beg you and all to remember that this blog entry is not only in response to your public comments, but to other private ones I have received).
In any event, this idea is very, very common – so common as to become axiomatic in certain circles: we are in need of wisdom from other traditions, because somehow Christianity has forgotten much of its true, original nature.
What can I say? I once shared such positions axiomatically myself. But now after actually joining in the sheer wonders of the Traditional and Sacramental Church, they no longer seem true.
Rather than forgetting, it seems to me that seen from within, the traditional Church has actually remembered the most important things of all!
I would like to mark these words: seen from within. For I was once a New Ager with no experience of the Tradition and the Sacraments and yet I confidently believed that the real treasures of the Church had been forgotten …
Finally, above I mentioned a second great Catholic whose journey has inspired me. It is that of Valentin Tomberg.
Yes I do not think Tomberg became more and more facile, as he became more conservative, but more and more profound and complex.
And it was with profound, complex love for the world, that he could write the apparently “scandalous” things I have sometimes cited here.
“The impoverishment of humanity caused by Protestantism: without the Mother the Word is not ensouled, and consequently humanity is deprived of the effect of the Universal Remedy [Author´s emphasis].”
And then there are his words in reference to the controversial figure of
”Metternich, who was villified so much [but] who recognised the true scope of the danger [and the] necessity to save European Christianity from the danger of being swept under a wave of irreverence [My emphasis].”
Friends, known and unknown, the last blog entry was concerned with the Easternization of the West. I frankly confess that I believe we have to do here with a very grave set of matters, sweeping Christianity under.
I have come to believe in and want to do all that I can to support the traditional approach taken by figures such as the Holy Father. I trust that in the depth of the love of his heart he is more conscious than myself to the tragedy of what is being lost …
Finally for anyone concerned with following this further, my review of a book linked to below may be of interest.