The Flying Buttress: What Inquisitors' Minds Want to Know

An archive for issues of The Flying Buttress newswire, whose purpose is to comment satirically on dissent within and relating to the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Cincinnati. Disclaimer: These publications are works of satirical fiction. Any similarity to persons living or dead is purely coincidental, but it all depends on what you mean by the word "is." May the Lord bless you and keep you!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Journey to the Center of the Faith

+In this, our last issue of the 2007-2008 publishing season, we recall the story of Sodom, in which God agrees that He will not destroy the city if there are 50 righteous people in it, then 45, then 30, then 20, and finally, only ten righteous people.

+Abraham’s fascinating negotiation provokes several questions: one, how many righteous Catholics would it have taken to avert what Gerald Warner calls the “Second Vatican Catastrophe” (to which we add the moniker “the Sodom of Modernism”)? Two, what is a righteous Catholic? Three, why are we asking such abstruse questions?

+Consider this: traditionalists have engaged in the battle for the restoration of the Catholic faith, but do they really understand why the faith was so badly obscured in the first place? Or will the same mistake be repeated?

+The predominant strain of traditionalist thought holds that if only the Church could return to its pre-Vatican II state, all Conciliar chaos would be healed. It also holds that during this pre-Vatican II era, the Church was strong: Catholic education was sound and turned out phalanxes of well-catechized and devout laity, consciences were well-formed, priests were holy and faithful, doctrines were clear and succint, bishops were good shepherds. The Church flourished.

+This assessment begs the painful but obvious question: if the pre-Vatican II Church was so healthy, then why, when attacked by her ancient enemy, did she collapse like a house of cards (romanita translation: “experience renewal”) in a just few short years?

+The Flying Buttress proposes an unpalatable answer to this unpalatable question, an answer which we do not intend or pretend to be definitive, but one which, we hope, will stimulate thought and prayer. Our answer is that the traditional Church collapsed because there was a grave weakness among her human members: there were not enough righteous souls within the Body of Christ. In other words, the appearance of strength was precisely that: the Church was in some way hollow, and thus failed to repel the attack. Therefore, not only is the “Conciliar Church” a “great façade,” but, tragically, and in a different sense, so was the traditional Church.

+Could this hollowness have been what John XXIII sensed, causing him to call a Council? (Though he apparently never understood that the Church could not possibly become more attractive to the world, nor more potent in the world, by becoming more like the world.)

+Could it have been what Dom Jean-Baptiste Chautard was referring to in 1907, when he appealed, in The Soul of the Apostolate, to the “soldiers of Christ” who “might be exposed, because of the very activity they display, to the danger of not being, above all, men of interior life?

+Question No. 2: what is a righteous Catholic? The formulaic answer to this question is that a righteous Catholic is a good Catholic. For example, §204 from the Baltimore Catechism, “How can a Catholic best safeguard his faith?”:

“A Catholic can best safeguard his faith by making frequent acts of faith, by praying for a strong faith, by studying his religion very earnestly, by living a good life, by good reading, by refusing to associate with the enemies of the Church, and by not reading books and papers opposed to the Church and her teaching.”

+However, we are not going to settle for the formulaic answer, since we suspect that, ultimately, that answer was responsible for Vatican II and its aftermath. We propose that being a good Catholic is not righteousness, but is in fact the foundation for righteousness, the preparation for righteousness, and the first prerequisite for righteousness. In other words, righteousness is the next step. So how do we define righteousness? We turn to St. Francis de Sales for a clue:

“The purpose of the Interior Life is to unite one’s soul to God.” (Introduction to the Devout Life)

+Righteousness is the pursuit of the interior life, which is the pursuit of union of one’s soul with God. Righteousness is living Catholic mysticism.

+Is it reasonable to expect all the laity to seek the path of the Catholic mystic? No, even though, according to John Paul II (Novo Millenio Ineunte), that path is open to all Catholics. How many good Catholics are there, let alone how many approach the narrow gate? Nevertheless, if the story of Sodom is a guide, then might it take only a relatively small number of Catholic mystics to make the Church whole, by the grace of God?

+With that in mind, we leave you to ponder this: who among us will ignite in their hearts the flame of desire for the mystical union with Christ? And who among us, in so doing, will help return the Church to her holy servitude?


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