The Personalist Project

Fallen nature needs grace

The nature restrained only by the influence of education maintains its cultivated exterior only to a certain point; then it breaks through all bounds. Only the power of grace can uproot and form fallen nature anew; it happens from within, never from without.

Edith Stein, Essays on Woman

A friend sent a link to an excellent Crisis Magazine article by Darrick Taylor about the historical roots of the clergy sex abuse scandals. It jibes perfectly with the case I've been making for years now about the problem of clericalism, the master/slave dynamic in our communal life, and the need for the laity to, as it were, grow up in our Christianity.

After the Reformation, nominalist ideas of obedience combined with a distorted view of priestly sanctity created psychological habits of dependence among the clergy and passed them on to the laity.

Those habits, coupled with erosions of safeguards in canon law, led to the calamity we're facing.

But where such an idea of authority and obedience went unchecked, it must have created an atmosphere that drew abusive men to the priesthood. 

Yes. Abusive men were drawn to the priesthood, which in turn, and in a classic vicious cycle, repelled a not-insignificant number of naturally-spirited laymen, who then became dissenters or left the Church altogether, so that now She is much-too-largely-composed of abusers and weak, passive people, clergy and laity alike.

If we want to change that, we're going to have to make fundamental changes in ecclesial law, custom and culture. Above all, in my own opinion, the laity will to have to learn to seize and exercise responsibly co-ownership and co-agency in the Church.

It's already all given in the doctrines and philosophy of our Faith. We just have to take it up.

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A couple of particulars from today's first reading from Acts 15.

Some of the Jewish Christians were claiming that gentile converts would need to be circumcised to be saved. 

Because there arose no little dissension and debate, by Paul and Barnabas with them, it was decided that Paul, Barnabas, and some of the others should go up to Jerusalem to the Apostles and presbyters about this question. They were sent on their journey by the Church". 

Who is the subject of the verb "sent" here? Is it not the body of believers, the People of God, i.e., the laity, acting as a corporate subject? Paul and Barnabas are effectively the leading clergy in that community. And yet, they are the ones sent by the believers of that place. They are, in this case, the objects, as it were, of the laity's agency.

Now look a couple verses further down. [my bold]

When they arrived in Jerusalem they were welcomed by the Church, as well as by the Apostles and presbyters, and they reported what God had done with them.

There is a distinction between the Church and the Apostles and presbyters. What does that mean?

If you ask me, we are looking at complementary reciprocity between priesthood and laity at the very origins of ecclesial history.

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A constitution is the founding document of a formal association. It lays down fundamental principles; it defines "a people who are collectively sovereign." In other words, it forms a corporate subject. It turns a collection of individuals into a deliberate, distinct people.

In late 18th century Poland, for example, a new constitution was drawn up, part of whose aim it was to "elevate the status of the burghers" as over and against the monarchy. Learn all about it in this short video clip that came up in my Gab feed this morning:

What I'm trying to say is this: The laity of the Church need a sort of constitution. And by Church I here mean not the hierarchy centered in Rome but the body of believers, the people of God centered in any given place. We need to embody ourselves as a definite corporate subject that can relate itself to our priests as such. Not adversarially, but spousally—as complementary opposites, ordered toward mission, i.e., new life.

I'll say again what I've said many times before: I'm not talking about abolishing the priesthood or the hierarchy. Nor were the Poles of that trying to get rid of the monarchy. Rather, they were about a re-distribution of social and economic power to better reflect modern "discoveries" surrounding the rights and dignity of the individual.

Similarly, the structural changes I'm calling for are about re-distributing "power" in a way intended to reflect organic theological, philosophical and experiential developments of the modern period, including especially those regarding the dignity of women, the subjectivity of the person, the nature of marriage, and the value and distinctness of the lay vocation. 

(I put quotes around power because the kind I'm talking about is only analogously related to power in the secular sense. "Power" in the Church is deeper and more comprehensive, and it's suffused with divine grace. Call it agency or authority or decision-making or charism. Or help me find a word that comprises all of those things.)

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Why are the neo-marxist globalists pushing masks, despite the ever-mounting evidence indicating that while they are no use against a respiratory virus, they are profoundly harmful in many other respects?

I say it's for the same reason Islamists push the burqa, viz., the devil hates the human face, which reflects God. He also hates the interpersonal-gaze, which is the experiential ground of true communion, the human image of the Holy Trinity, the seed of love. So, whatever disrupts that is right up his evil alley.

(Painting by Mary Cassatt)

“All of us, gazing with unveiled face on the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the image from glory to glory, as from the Lord who is the Spirit.”

2 Corinthians 3:18

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Tonight we're getting together with some friends to discuss the first two chapters of Rod Dreher's new book, Live Not By Lies: A Manual for Christian Dissidents. It draws lessons from the stories of those who lived under the domination of Soviet communism. I've only just begun reading it, but already a bunch of things jump out, including this: 

A Belgian priest named Joseph Cardijn, whose father had been killed in a mining accident, started a lay movement to do this among the working class. These were the Young Christian Workers, called “Jocists” after the initials of their name in French. Inspired by the Jocist example, Father Kolaković adapted it to the needs of the Catholic Church in German-occupied Slovakia. He established cells of faithful young Catholics who came together for prayer, study, and fellowship. The refugee priest taught the young Slovak believers that every person must be accountable to God for his actions. Freedom is responsibility, he stressed; it is a means to live within the truth. The motto of the Jocists became the motto for what Father Kolaković called his “Family”: “See. Judge. Act.” See meant to be awake to realities around you. Judge was a command to discern soberly the meaning of those realities in light of what you know to be true, especially from the teachings of the Christian faith. After you reach a conclusion, then you are to act to resist evil.

Anyone who has studied the life and thought of Karol Wojtyla will recognize the similarities: the stress on the working class as over and against the elites in power; small groups meeting privately, the theme of freedom and responsibility. Now check this out:

Václav Vaško, a Kolaković follower, recalled late in his life that Father Kolaković’s ministry excited so many young Catholics because it energized the laity and gave them a sense of leadership responsibility.

It tracks with what I have been saying for the last couple of years. We are depressed and unfruitful as a church, because the laity are disempowered. Change that, and we'll see Christianity come alive again in our time.

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