Finding a fellow traveller… no coincidence! Fr. Nichols on secularism

I found a great quote toward the end of Fr. Aidan Nichols new Criticising the Critics, which I wrote about here.  This would be a good book to own and read carefully. Order from Amazon UK click HERE.

"Secularization is the work of elites who want to free themselves and the world they inhabit from any appeal to an authority that invokes transcendence."

 

At the end of his exceptional new book, Fr. Nichols has a chapter which suggests that he and I are so much in sync about the "identity" issue I have been writing for so long that I got shivers.

He is writing in the first place about England, the English, English culture and society, but his work is clearly appropriate for many other nations.  Eerily so for the United States, which hasn’t gone as far down the dismal road Fr. Nichols mapped.

In his last chapter: For Critics of Christendom (Secularization: A Catholic Response), and the subheading "The role of English Catholicism", he writes:

 

[T]he strategy I advocate is one which might be called ‘in depth re-confessionalisation’.  In this slogan, the adverbial phrase – ‘in depth’ and the noun – ‘re-confessionalisation’ – should be given equal weight.  ‘Re-confessionalisation’ speaks of the renaissance of a kind of Catholicism that would be more secure in its own identity, both doctrinal and cultural, than has been the case in recent decades, where milk has been split in the name of ecumenical adjustment and accomodation to the social life-ways of others.  That more secure identity is needed, not least, in order the better to counter the force of secularism.  …

 

A necessary component is "a re-enchanting of the Liturgy which is our primary induction into the nature of prayer and so the mystical".

Apropos… Pope Benedict is going to create a new dicastery of the Holy See, the Pontifical Council for New Evangelization.

Order from Amazon UK click HERE.

 

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21 Responses to Finding a fellow traveller… no coincidence! Fr. Nichols on secularism

  1. Andrew says:

    I don’t like the negative connotation associated with the word “elites”. There’s nothing wrong with elites, per se. In fact, there’s much wrong with a society where elites don’t hold their rightful place.

  2. Clinton says:

    “Secularization is the work of elites who want to free themselves and the world they inhabit from any appeal to an authority that invokes
    transcendence.”

    For they are jealous little gods, and we may worship no God before them.

  3. Leonius says:

    “elites who want to free themselves and the world they inhabit from any appeal to an authority that invokes transcendence..” aren’t holding their rightful place Andrew, and when they don’t it is right to speak of them negatively.

    Indeed negative criticism of the elites is the only tool plebeians really have at their disposal to rein them in when their pride threatens to destroy the whole of society, such as for instance when they try to throw down God from heaven and set themselves to reign in His place, such is secularism.

    At the same time we must promote new elites, true elites who are elites based on their virtues, not the amount of money they have, only an elite based outstanding virtue is a true elite.

  4. chcrix says:

    “I don’t like the negative connotation associated with the word “elites”. There’s nothing wrong with elites, per se. In fact, there’s much wrong with a society where elites don’t hold their rightful place.”

    Well…. The pope is a member of an elite. And he comports himself becomingly. Note that not all popes have. And the ability to appeal to a higher authority is the only way to try to get the elites back in line.

    The modern ‘elites’ though are simply concerned about any belief that might put some spine into the deltas and epislons. These moderns are bereft of any sense of their own obligations.

  5. THREEHEARTS says:

    Ecumenical adjustments, what a fine descriptive way to describe so many errors in the Church. Since Vatican 2 so many of the instructions written and even the new catechism errs in ways to make ecumenism acceptable to both sides and our faith adjusted to give an easy entrance into our Catholic Ranks. Actually I see it as an even easier way to exit our Catholicism. What we hear today, if we do hear that is, that Sin and Sanctifying Grace is never mentioned and both have become somewhat incomprehensible; unless you have studied, Fr John Hardon’s catechism written at the behest of JP2 for the Missionaries of Charity, the Penny Catechism of the UK or the Baltimore 3 of the United States. We are as a group catechetically uncircumcised. This week I heard a priest, a professor of theology state we do not need knowledge only love. What happened to know Him to Love Him and to serve Him in this world? Why then, we should question, did JP2 commission another catechism for The Sisters of Charity????

  6. It’s an ancient tenet of the Catholic Church, from back when we were fighting the Gnostics, that you don’t _need_ to know stuff in order to be saved. It’s also a point where we’ve differed with various Protestant sects along the years.

    It’s desirable to know stuff about Creation, and it’s desirable to know God as well as we can, and that is indeed part of our purpose in being. And yes, God wants us to know, and has given us both brains and revealed truth. But faith and love and hope are essential to Christianity, not knowledge so much. Otherwise, the many martyrs who converted from pagan to Christian in sheer admiration of the martyrs’ courage, and baptized babies who die long before the age of reason, would have no hope.

    This doesn’t necessarily mean that the guy talking didn’t mean it wrong; but what he said was right. There will be a test on Judgment Day, but it won’t be a written exam. Nor will we have to have memorized some arcane set of passwords, as the Egyptians and Gnostics believed.

    But it is fitting for us to learn as much as we can, because we worship Him who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life; and because we have to go out and tell all the nations about Him.

  7. Here’s a good article on how love of God makes us seek Him, and since He’s Truth, we end up seeking more knowledge too:

    http://www.aquinasonline.com/Topics/knowlove.html

    And of course, there were many early Christians, like St. Clement of Alexandria, who championed the search to know God better as a path to holiness. That’s what learning theology is supposed to be for the individual — to learn to love God better, and to know Him more deeply.

    But Paul warned us that knowledge without love is useless, whereas if you only have love, you’ve got something pretty good. (Though again, anybody who has love and keeps at it is going to pick up all sorts of virtues and goodies through loving God and neighbor, and knowledge is probably going to be one of those things.)

    Finally, in defense of this sort of comment, when people talk about knowledge not being “necessary”, they’re cautioning people like me who think they know it all, and who aren’t particularly good at being kind and loving. So it’s likely that he was talking to some smartaleck in the back who needed to hear it. :)

  8. Maltese says:

    “Secularization is the work of elites who want to free themselves and the world they inhabit from any appeal to an authority that invokes transcendence.”

    Brilliant quote!

    But more than that I think we all want to “free” ourselves from the constraints of transcendence and commensurate divine dictate. We want to be free of all constraint to do exactly as we please.

  9. Richard Oliver says:

    Well YES! Imminence is the bug bear. Transcendence transforms. The whole born again thing. Really good. Really necessary. Really real.

  10. Traductora says:

    I am less than thrilled with Fischiella being in charge of this, but maybe he has learned something from his ill advised remarks on various moral issues.

    I live in a town settled by the Spanish in the 16th century. Everything they did – every moment, every hour, every date, every place and every event – took place within the context of Catholic practice and tradition. That’s what we need to get back to. And it’s got to be as natural to us as the air we breathe.

  11. I think Archbp. Fisichella’s now famous remarks can be a matter of deeper discussion.

  12. Mike says:

    Traductora–well, yes, but I think there’s a proper secularity too. We don’t need to always name our kids after Popes, do we?

  13. nzcatholic says:

    Im waiting to see this guy named a bishop. I was thinking it would be nice to see him get a job in the new vatican dicastry but I think England needs him more

  14. Igne says:

    As long as Catholic evangelization differs from Protestant or Charismatic evangelization all should be well. Orthodox liturgy would guarantee this. The faces of the Catholic evangelization should be as varied as the saints, canonized and otherwise: Newman, Athanasius, Anthony of Padua, Ignatius Loyola, Fr John Sullivan, Thomas Aquinas, Peter, Thomas, John of the Cross, John Chrysostom. I fear a sentimental, schmaltzy approach with execrable Italian hymns etc. But, all will be well…

  15. sawdustmick says:

    Hopefully I will be able to attend the Day of recollection on 10th July Near Ware, Hertfordshire (UK). Fr Aidan Nicholls will be preaching.

    Here is url for the flyer:- http://www.latin-mass-society.org/2010/ware.pdf

  16. JonM says:

    You are completely right Father: England (UK in general) ‘leads” us in many problematic respects.

    Militant secularism is no joke there; comparatively we have 2nd stringers in the US.

    But also economically, the UK is in more serious condition. Clearly, economic problems extend from moral ones.

    I have a lot to say on the issue of identity. Too many Catholics, even those who call themselves conservatives, choose to compartmentalize the Faith within their lives, almost like how one identifies as a beach person vs. a lake aficionado.

    If we want Catholic leaders, Bishops and Priests will have to lead their flocks politically. Otherwise we can accept 501c3 – and the fact nothing with reverse our course but the mercy of God.

  17. mpm says:

    If we want Catholic leaders, Bishops and Priests will have to lead their flocks politically. Otherwise we can accept 501c3 – and the fact nothing with reverse our course but the mercy of God.
    Comment by JonM — 28 April 2010 @ 8:41 am

    I think you will need to “quantify” your findings, if you want to be taken seriously about this. The “data” may not be friendly to your conclusion.

    When bishops and priests “lead their flocks politically”, the Catholic Church usually suffers. This is the concept of “Catholic Action”, very popular in Catholic countries like Germany, France and Italy in the 20th C. What did it buy them? Where are they today? The clergy, when it does adopt a “political leadership” role usually gets beat by the professionals. In evidence, I place the recent health care debacle in the USA. “The bishops” (USCCB) took an “official” political position on Obamacare, and they were out-maneuvered by the pros (perhaps with a little “inside” help?). Where does that leave the prestige of the USCCB today? Are the US Bishops not regarded as a “lobby”?

    There is an enormous difference between saying “this you shall not do, for the following religious (or natural law) reasons”, and “we (all of you? Why?) think doing that is a good idea”.

    The latter represents no more than a personal view, and there is no “grace of state” that qualifies one of the ordained to have a more enlightened view about temporal affairs than anyone else. One should regard the personal view of one of the ordained in the same way as one views other personal opinions: if the person happens to know something about the field that’s one thing, if not,, that’s another.

    I guess that I can be accused of having a (classical) liberal understanding of Catholicism when it comes to temporal realities: I value expertise over office. When it comes to matters of faith and praxis, however, I’m as orthodox as I can be: I strive, work at, understanding the faith and its implications, and try to think and act accordingly.

    I am no “theocrat”. I’m just a good old fashioned basically conservative, registered-as-an-independent, citizen, like many others. I do not believe in “THE” Catholic way in temporal affairs, and I do not believe that the Faith authorizes a one-size-fits-all attitude toward temporal realities.

    That’s not my “identity”, it’s who I am.

  18. robtbrown says:

    Well YES! Imminence is the bug bear. Transcendence transforms. The whole born again thing. Really good. Really necessary. Really real.
    Comment by Richard Oliver

    I think you mean immanence.

  19. JonM says:

    * with should be will

    Mike,

    Yes I think that inevitably there are secular and civil matters but that exist within the context of the Faith even still.

    Certainly moderation is required in this; it would be extreme and misplaced to think one must name their children after Popes. But it would be worse to give a child, as his first name, something pagan like Thor.

    I think what Traductora was getting at was this. In the US, the parish is not a hub of community activity. Many Catholics would find the idea of living in a Catholic community ‘weird,’ even though this is what we are to strive for (either through conversions or coalescing.) How many Catholics think to look within the Church for a wife/husband, view their Pastor as a very important figure in their day-to-day life, or would think to build the church as the focal point of a new town?

    What Americans, Catholics included, seem to be ignorant to is that typically there wasn’t a distinction between Church and state as we know it. Sure, there were civil authorities and Church powers and often they butted heads (violently in the case of St. Thomas Becket, who courageously presented his life for the rights of the Church.) But churches were often very close to or even next to civil administration buildings. This is evidenced even today in Latin American countries.

    Armenians are very proud that their country was the first to declare Christianity the official religion. Until the nutty times of recent dawn, i.e. the Freemasonic era, all nations had some state religion. This is only natural. It is actually intensely unnatural and confusing to not have a state religion.

    This is why most US States had official religions after the Constitution (e.g., North Carolina criminalized Catholicism while Pennsylvania declared itself a Commonwealth of religious indifference, this being the odd man out.) Bet you didn’t learn that in ‘Social Studies’ class!

    I know many people hate Bishop Williamson, but he has written a scholarly piece about this matter. He mentions how Pope Pius X condemned Sillonism and this teaching appears to be flat out forgotten in recent times. Incidentally, Catholic worship and practice is at a dismal low, a smaller portion of the world is even nominally apart of the Church, and society in general is in chaos.

    The Catholic Church is truth because it is what was founded by the Word. Therefore we should be instructing the world, shaping it, and arranging with the understanding it is fallen and in need of redemption.

    Aside from practical temporal considerations (e.g., I will work for, with, or above non-Catholics because I was born in America, live in mixed communities, rarely do Catholics live together, etc.) there should be no consideration to ‘adjusting to’ the world.

  20. JonM says:

    * I am no “theocrat”. I’m just a good old fashioned basically conservative, registered-as-an-independent, citizen, like many others. I do not believe in “THE” Catholic way in temporal affairs, and I do not believe that the Faith authorizes a one-size-fits-all attitude toward temporal realities.

    This is exactly what I ran into in my campaigning amongst Catholics. I invite Father to enter in if I am misconstruing the intention of bringing up this excellent book, but as I see it, Fr. Nichols work seeks to have a public conversation about the public, everyday life of Catholics.

    Catholics have lost an identity in no small part thanks to the Second Vatican Council, that is going by the raw numbers.

    However, if we adopt that idea of not believing in the ‘Catholic way in temporal affairs,’ I must inform you that the current Congress is about as good as it’s going to get. And we ought to stop expending so much energy in various political causes because, MPM, it just ain’t gonna change with a Pelagianesque perspective.

    You do bring up a good point, that Bishops could abuse their leadership roles. First, we know that they can sin. Badly. Just as you and I could. But, they are Pastors, leaders of their flocks. Therefore it is their prescribed station to lead.

    The USCCB does not lead as a Catholic college per se. It leads as a ‘social justice’ mechanism that identifies as Roman Catholic with harsh light of aggiornamento cast upon it. In my opinion, the very reason it fails as an effective shepherd college is because I frankly have doubts about some of its members true concrete devotion to all of the revealed teachings, dogma, and tradition Christ left and set in motion. We know many bishops will not refuse communion to public persons in open, unrepentant mortal sin, so I think that alone explains a lot.

  21. MAJ Tony says:

    Traductora—well, yes, but I think there’s a proper secularity too. We don’t need to always name our kids after Popes, do we? –Comment by Mike — 27 April 2010 @ 8:24 pm

    Since you mentioned naming kids after Popes, my paternal Grandfather, Raymond (presumably named after the Canon Lawyer saint) was bookended by two brothers with names shared by Popes who were Saints (Marcellus and Sylvester). Between those three, their baby brother, and baby sister (the only surviving sib.) and my Mom’s parents, I don’t know of any better examples of devoted Catholic men and women.