But if one needs institutionalized religion, one could do far worse, assuming one can stomach the secular-humanist liberal namby-pambification and wussification that the post-Vatican II church can't seem to resist, the dilution of doctrine and tradition that empties into the nauseating Church of Nice.
There was something profoundly stupid about the Vatican II 'reforms' even if we view matters from a purely immanent 'sociological' point of view. Suppose Roman Catholicism is, metaphysically, buncombe to its core, nothing but an elaborate human construction in the face of a meaningless universe, a construction kept going by human needs and desires noble and base. Suppose there is no God, no soul, no post-mortem reward or punishment, no moral world order. Suppose we are nothing but a species of clever land mammal thrown up on the shores of life by blind evolutionary processes, and that everything that makes us normatively human and thus persons (consciousness, self-consciousness, conscience, reason, and the rest) are nothing but cosmic accidents. Suppose all that.
Still, religion would have its immanent life-enhancing role to play, and one would have to be as superficial and ignorant of the human heart as a New Atheist to think it would ever wither away: it inspires and guides, comforts and consoles; it provides our noble impulses with an outlet while giving suffering a meaning. Suffering can be borne, Nietzsche says somewhere, if it has a meaning; what is unbearable is meaningless suffering. Now the deep meaning that the Roman church provides is tied to its profundity, mystery, and reference to the Transcendent. Anything that degrades it into a namby-pamby secular humanism, just another brand of liberal feel-goodism and do-goodism, destroys it, making of it just another piece of dubious cultural junk. Degrading factors: switching from Latin to the vernacular; the introduction of sappy pseudo-folk music sung by pimply-faced adolescents strumming gut-stringed guitars; leftist politics and political correctness; the priest facing the congregation; the '60s obsession with 'relevance.'
People who take religion seriously tend to be conservatives and traditionalists; they are not change-for-the-sake-of-change leftist utopians. The stupidity of the Vatican II 'reforms,' therefore, consists in estranging its very clienetele, the conservatives and traditionalists. The church should be a liberal-free zone.
Atheist Malcolm Pollack gets it right too and refers us to a fine piece by Pat Buchanan.
And then there is this by Michael Brendan Dougherty on the ascendancy of Jorge Bergoglio:
But the other way to look at the dawn of this papacy is that it is one more in the pile of recent Catholic novelties and mediocrities. He is the first Latin American pope, the first Jesuit to be pope, and the first to take the name Francis. And so he falls in line with the larger era of the church in the past 50 years which has been defined by ill-considered experimentation: a “pastoral” ecumenical council at Vatican II, a new synthetic vernacular liturgy, the hasty revision of the rules for almost all religious orders within the church, the dramatic gestures and “saint factory” of Pope John Paul II’s papacy, along with the surprise resignation of Benedict XVI. In this vision, Benedict’s papacy, which focused on “continuity,” seems like the exception to an epoch of stunning and unsettling change, which—as we know—usually heralds collapse.
"Ill-considered experimentation" is right. I would go further and call it profoundly stupid. People who are drawn to religion tend to be of a conservative bent. Conservatives don't like change, tolerating it only when necessary. For a conservative, there is a defeasible presumption in favor of keeping things as they are, a defeasible presumption in favor of traditional formulations and usages, beliefs and practices. Now the world outside the Church is rife with change, not all of it bad, of course, but much of it unsettling. The Church ought to be a place of stability and order, an oasis of calm, a venue where the ancient is preserved as a temporal reminder of the eternal.
So you drive people away from the Church by instituting 'reforms' that accommodate the Church to the crap culture outside it. This is a large topic and a fit one for a large-scale rant, but it is time to punch the clock. I will just mention three stupidities: getting rid of the Latin mass; abolishing the no-meat-on-Friday rule, and the asinine PC re-labelling of confession as 'reconciliation.' Pee-Cee crapola and just the tip of the iceberg.
Even if Catholicism is pure buncombe with no transcendent warrant, if it wants to survive immanently speaking, then it must not allow itself to be watered down into some form of namby-pamby secular humanist bullshit.
Have I succeeded in expressing my disapprobation of recent developments?
The dopes inside the Church are worse than those outside it.
Paul Brunton, The Notebooks of P. B., vol. 12, part 2, p. 34, #68:
A public place is an unnatural environment in which to place oneself mentally or physically in the attitude of true prayer. It is far too intimate, emotional, and personal to be satisfactorily tried anywhere except in solitude. What passes for prayer in temples, churches, and synagogues is therefore a compromise dictated by the physical necessity of an institution. It may be quite good but too often alas! it is only the dressed-up double of true prayer.
Where would we be without institutions? We need them, but only up to a point. We are what we are because of the institutions in which we grew up, and natural piety dictates that we be appropriately grateful. But their negative aspects cannot be ignored and all further personal development requires those who can, to go it alone.
We need society and its institutions to socialize us, to raise us from the level of the animal to that of the human. But this human is all-too-human, and to take the next step we must tread the solitary path. Better to be a social animal than a mere animal, but better than both is to become an individual, as I am sure Kierkegaard would agree. To achieve true individuality is one of the main tasks of human life. In pursuit of this task institutions are more hindrance than help.
For some, churches and related institutions will always be necessary to provide guidance, discipline, and community. But for others they will prove stifling and second-best, a transitional phase in their development.
For any church to claim that outside it there is no salvation -- extra ecclesiam salus non est -- is intolerable dogmatism, and indeed a form of idolatry in which something finite, a human institution contingent both in its existence and configuration, is elevated to the status of the Absolute.
This from D. J. Stove, the son of atheist and neo-positivist David Stove:
When the possibility of converting to Catholicism became a real one, it was the immensity of the whole package that daunted me, rather than specific teachings. I therefore spent little time agonizing over the Assumption of Mary, justification by works as well as faith, the reverencing of statues, and other such concepts that traditionally irk the non-Catholic mind.
Rather, such anguish as I felt came from entirely the other direction. However dimly and inadequately, I had learnt enough Catholic history and Catholic dogma to know that either Catholicism was the greatest racket in human history, or it was what it said itself that it was. Such studying burned the phrase "By what authority?" into my mind like acid. If the papacy was just an imposture, or an exercise in power mania, then how was doctrine to be transmitted from generation to generation? If the whole Catholic enchilada was a swindle, then why should its enemies have bestirred themselves to hate it so much? Why do they do so still?
This reminds me of the famous 'trilemma' popularized by C. S. Lewis: Jesus is either the Son of God, or he is a lunatic, or he is the devil. This trilemma is also sometimes put as a three-way choice among lord, lunatic, or liar. I quote Lewis and offer my critical remarks here.
Just as I cannot accept the Lewis 'trilemma' -- which is not strictly a trilemma inasmuch as not all three prongs are unacceptable -- I cannot accept the Stovian 'dilemma' which strikes me as a text-book case of the informal fallacy of False Alternative. ". . . either Catholicism was the greatest racket in human history, or it was what it said itself that it was." Why are these the only two alternatives? The Roman Catholic church claims to be the one, true, holy, catholic (universal), and apostolic church. One possibility is that the Roman church was all of these things before various linguistic, political, and theological tensions eventuated in the Great Schism of 1054 such that after that date the one, true, etc. church was the Orthodox church of the East. After all, both can and do trace their lineage back to Peter, the 'rock' upon whom Christ founded his church. That is at least a possibility. If it is actual, then the present Roman church would be neither a racket nor what it claims to be. It would be a church with many excellences that unfortunately diverged from the authentic Christian tradition.
Or it could be that that true church is not the Roman church but some Protestant denomination, or maybe no church is the true church: some are better than others, but none of the extant churches has 'cornered the market' on all religiously relevant truth.
I get the impression that Stove has a burning desire to belong to a community of Christian believers, is attracted to the Roman church for a variety of reasons, some of them good, and then concocts an obviously worthless argument to lend a veneer of rationality to his choice.
My point is a purely logical one. I am not taking sides in any theological controversy.