Then and now

Spengler quotes Bottum on the Catholic world pre-1965, in a fascinating discussion of the secular religion of today:

The embroidered arcanery of copes and stoles and albs and chasubles, the rituals of Holy Water blessings, the grottos with their precarious rows of fire-hazard candles flickering away in little red cups, the colored seams and peculiar buttons that identified monsignors, the wimpled school sisters, the tiny Spanish grandmothers muttering prayers in their black mantillas, the First Communion girls wrapped up in white like prepubescent brides, the mumbled Irish prejudices, the loud Italian festivals, the Holy Door indulgences, the pocket guides to scholastic philosophy, the Knights of Columbus with their cocked hats and comic-opera swords, the tinny mission bells, the melismatic chapel choirs— none of this was the Church, some of it actually obscured the Church, and the decision to clear out the mess was not unintelligent or uninformed or unintended.

It was merely insane. An entire culture nested in the crossbeams and crannies, the nooks and corners, of the Catholic Church. And it wasn’t until the swallows had been chased away that anyone seemed to realize how much the Church itself needed them, darting around the chapels and flitting through the cathedrals.

That’s the Catholic Church that’s been lost, but most of Bottum’s book is about the today’s post Christian Puritans in America: “We live in a spiritual age when the political has been transformed into the soteriological. When how we vote is how our souls are saved.”

Indeed. A major dividing line is how we think about the past. We have high government officials who believe the past is outdated and, it follows, irrelevant. We think they’ve been beguiled by the metaphor of technological progress, as well as their own good fortune in life. Is there a way back from this fantasy world? Of course, but it is highly unlikely to be pleasant.

(On the lighter side, we offer examples of outlandish but fashionable idiocy, here, here, and here, which suggest that maybe, just maybe, things might right themselves without cataclysm.)

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