Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Through the Lens of Evangelization

Most Church news is about boring administration. Most of the Church news that catches the attention of the Lame Stream Media is sensationalistic and usually completely baseless. But sometimes good Church reporters forge an amalgam of the two. That is how I interpret this one at Crux. The gist of the article is that Pope Francis is really stirring things up by appointing a Dominican (i.e. not the Order of Preachers kind of Dominican) to the Dominican Archdiocese of Santo Domingo. Let me examine this from a few angles.

1. History is in the past. 

The Church loves tradition. I have noticed that sometimes it is to its detriment. Like when it takes about primacies. Only a few primacies matter. Baltimore does not and Quebec City does not. Most of the primacies that matter are Eastern, but not all. Milan matters, but Venice and Ravenna do not. Milan has a rite to protect. One might say that New York has a de facto primacy. One might assume that one day it will be de jure. Washington probably never.

Why do I say this is detrimental? From the perspective of evangelization. Marveling at tradition on its own account treats the Church like a museum, and is only of interest to insiders. (It is interesting to me, but, again, I'm an insider.) It is like the CCCB's deference to bilingualism. How many Catholics in Canada are bilingual? I would say 10% is probable. But all of its leadership - both clerical and secular - has to be. Is this representative, like a Dominican from the Dominican Republic is representative? How many care about what's happening in Quebec City or even know its bishop's name? In other words, he is no 'overall' spiritual leader to Canadian Catholics. It's just a fact. The Bishop of Toronto is as close as one gets to a 'head of the Catholic Church in Canada,' and that's only been a diocese since 1841 (compared to QC, which had its first bishop in 1658).

No one has done more to evangelize Canada than the OMI, but does it matter now? Increasingly, no. Does this history matter for spreading the message today? Not really, although it's rife with life-lessons, but not with prescriptions. Pouring resources into keeping things the way they were is not sensible. The first Christians even soon stopped going to the Temple.

Referring to the Archdiocese of Santo Domingo as the 'Primacy of the Americas' probably makes Dominicans feel important, but to what end?

The Church does this stuff all the time when it sides with structure over charism. Of course, structure is a good remedy against some of the human failings associated with charismatic-types of action. Structure's not bad, it's just not everything.

2. New is Just as Bad

Paradoxically, the article that makes reference to the traditional place Santo Domingo has held (God bless those the Spanish Monarchy and its sunny ways), also talks about Pope Francis stirring things up. So we've got the best of things old and new (cf. Mt 13:52). In other words, let's do something so old, it's new! or something like that.

Racism is bubbling up everywhere!
Novelty. If there is one thing I hate it is novelty. I hate it worse than traditionalism. Hope and change - it doesn't matter what you change into, just change! The website of the Federal Liberals used to talk about becoming an activist - it doesn't matter what you are being active bringing about, just bring it about! Change is good because right now is bad. Racism. Racism seething out all over the place.

It's easy for the Church to fall into this line of thinking. It's superficiality and thinking deeply is not many people's default position.

Here's some nuggets for ya:

  • traditionalism is the morality of shallow people who are happy
  • progressivism is the morality of shallow people who are unhappy

New and old are two categories. I think Aristotle would fit them into the category of time. Good and bad are also qualities. I think he would consider them categories of quality. Whatever the case, they are not interchangeable or synonyms of each other - that should be pretty obvious. We get confused because of our cars and phones. New is usually better with manufactured things (save for things manufactured in China and sold at Dollar Stores). But it is not so with people, with their relationships, their values, their experiences... There is no tendency toward the better with the newer when it comes to people. When we treat people like manufactured goods we can really lose out.

To the news that something is new, a wise person would ask, is it better new, and how so? When a wise person hears something like, Pope Francis did something unprecedented, he wonders whether this is a good thing or not. He does not like new things for their own sake. The first black this, the first Asian that... is not sufficient. Who remembers who the first non-Italian Roman Emperor was? Probably Roman Historians. It was big news at the time, no doubt.

In the end, the Church should not be in the business of amusing unhappy shallow people or antiquarians. What lasts, what invigorates, are the things of wisdom, the things that actually make us happy. New things amuse us for as long as they are new. Old things, in the end, are old and probably moldy. When you say that something is new, you are basically telling me that it has no intrinsic worth.

Chernobyl was once the boast of an empire.

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