Corruptio optimi pessima… the corruption of the best thing is the worst sort of corruption.
The other day I heard Australian author Tracey Rowland give a great talk in Rome about Newman’s idea of a university in juxtaposition with what’s going on in education today and what an “updated” Newmanian model might be given that not only must young men be trained to be Catholic gentlemen, but young women must be trained to be Catholic ladies.
That got me thinking more about Newman’s work, The Idea of the University, [US HERE – UK HERE] which I hadn’t read since the early 80s. It was one of those works that the late Msgr. Schuler used to keep me on the hook during my journey toward and into the Church. So, I’m reading it again.
I’m reading Newman’s Idea against the backdrop of Rome and the ongoing farcical pan-Amazonian (“walking together”) Synod.
So, along I read and arrive at this passage. Read aloud and, in your mind, substitute “Ireland” and “England” with “Amazon”, “Celts and Saxons” with “indigenous tribes”, “Gregory” with “Francis”, etc.
In the first centuries of the Church all this practical sagacity of Holy Church was mere matter of faith, but every age, as it has come, has confirmed faith by actual sight; and shame on us, if, with the accumulated testimony of eighteen centuries, our eyes are too gross to see those victories which the Saints have ever seen by anticipation. Least of all can we, the Catholics of islands which have in the cultivation and diffusion of Knowledge heretofore been so singularly united under the auspices of the Apostolic See, least of all can we be the men to distrust its wisdom and to predict its failure, when it sends us on a similar mission now. I cannot forget that, at a time when Celt and Saxon were alike savage, it was the See of Peter that gave both of them, first faith, then civilization; and then again bound them together in one by the seal of a joint commission to convert and illuminate in their turn the pagan continent. I cannot forget how it was from Rome that the glorious St. Patrick was sent to Ireland, and did a work so great that he could not have a successor in it, the sanctity and learning and zeal and charity which followed on his death being but the result of the one impulse which he gave. I cannot forget how, in no long time, under the fostering breath of the Vicar of Christ, a country of heathen superstitions became the very wonder and asylum of all people,—the wonder by reason of its knowledge, sacred and profane, and the asylum of religion, literature and science, when chased away from the continent by the barbarian invaders. I recollect its hospitality, freely accorded to the pilgrim; its volumes munificently presented to the foreign student; and the prayers, the blessings, the holy rites, the solemn chants, which sanctified the while both giver and receiver.
Nor can I forget either, how my own England had meanwhile become the solicitude of the same unwearied eye: how Augustine was sent to us by Gregory; how he fainted in the way at the tidings of our fierceness, and, but for the Pope, would have shrunk as from an impossible expedition; how he was forced on “in weakness and in fear and in much trembling,” until he had achieved the conquest of the island to Christ. Nor, again, how it came to pass that, when Augustine died and his work slackened, another Pope, unwearied still, sent three saints from Rome, to ennoble and refine the people Augustine had converted. Three holy men set out for England together, of different nations: Theodore, an Asiatic Greek, from Tarsus; Adrian, an African; Bennett alone a Saxon, for Peter knows no distinction of races in his ecumenical work. They came with theology and science in their train; with relics, with pictures, with manuscripts of the Holy Fathers and the Greek classics; and Theodore and Adrian founded schools, secular and monastic, all over England, while Bennett brought to the north the large library he had collected in foreign parts, and, with plans and ornamental work from France, erected a church of stone, under the invocation of St. Peter, after the Roman fashion, “which,” says the historian, “he most affected.” I call to mind how St. Wilfrid, St. John of Beverley, St. Bede, and other saintly men, carried on the good work in the following generations, and how from that time forth the two islands, England and Ireland, in a dark and dreary age, were the two lights of Christendom, and had no claims on each other, and no thought of self, save in the interchange of kind offices and the rivalry of love.
Recruited by the Pope, sent to a savage place, driven by charity, “until he had achieved the conquest of the AMAZON to Christ”, is what you will not be reading in the future.
“They came [to the AMAZON] with theology and science in their train; with relics, with pictures, with manuscripts of the Holy Fathers and the Greek classics…”. Nope.
Instead, from the Amazon they came to Rome with pagan carvings that they set up in the hall where bishops babble, “under the invocation of St. Peter”. They come to Rome and her churches consecrated to the Triune God to set their demon idols up in front of picnic tables installed by modernists to displace the glorious main altars lovingly built by our forebears.
It’s enough to make you weep and gnash your teeth.
Consider what lofty aims are bruited in the “walking together” hall, how we of the Greco-Roman Judeo-Christian Western and especially Northern civilization must listen to the atavistic, pagan worshipers of idols, indeed, we must listen to the idolized trees and toads and snakes and raindrops, and gather into our own Catholic Thing their “wisdom”. It is suggested that we set aside proven disciplines of literally millennial testing and adapt to their ways. Why? Because, well, the alternative is toooo haaaard.
Augustine [of Canterbury] was sent to us by Gregory [the Great]; how he fainted in the way at the tidings of our fierceness, and, but for the Pope, would have shrunk as from an impossible expedition; how he was forced on “in weakness and in fear and in much trembling,” until he had achieved the conquest of the island to Christ.
Even in the face of dire and even deadly prospect, Holy Mother Church’s sons and daughters, in unity with Peter and the Apostles, have been obedient to the Great Commission Christ bestowed at His Ascension: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you”. (Matthew 29:19-20)
Holy Church has always done this very thing in the inevitable, inexorable and also profoundly desirable dynamic process of authentic inculturation.
In authentic inculturation, what the Church has to give to the world must always have logical priority in the simultaneous interchange of elements with the world. Reverse that priority, and you wind up with disasters… such as, for example, grinning Jesuits who pressure the Church to change her teaching on sodomy, or “walking together” participants who think there ought to be an Amazonian liturgical rite, the ash-canning of clerical celibacy, and the embrace of the impossible ordination of women.
In finem citius.