Thursday 7 May 2020

"It is as if the earth there is cursed" - Tolkien, Ireland and the Roman Church

George Sayer wrote the best biography of CS Lewis; and he was also a significant friend of JRR Tolkien. Sayer wrote a fascinating memoir later published in Tolkien: a celebration edited by Joseph Pearce (1999).

In one section Sayer recorded:

[Tolkien] had a very low opinion of his own merits and fairly easily got into a depressed state when thinking of his faults and deficiencies. 

Life was a war between good and evil. He thought the sacraments freed one from enthrallment to Sauron. 

Once he spoke to me of Ireland after he had spent part of a summer vacation working there as an examiner: 

"It is as if the earth there is cursed. It exudes an evil that is held in check only by Christian practice and the power of prayer."

Even the soil, the earth, played a part in the cosmic struggle between the forces of good and evil...

[Tolkien] found little or nothing wrong with the pre Vatican II Church, and therefore thought the reforms of the 1960s misguided and unnecessary...

The context is that Tolkien, by choice and with enjoyment, made many visits to Ireland both on holiday and as an external examiner for several universities; and said in a letter to his son Michael that he was always happy while there. 

My inference is that Tolkien's love of Ireland was bound-up with its being a Roman Catholic nation - and one of the most deeply and devoutly Catholic in the world.

And, just as Tolkien would have been very distressed by the state of his church nowadays; likewise he would have probably have been strongly averse to the modern, secular Ireland; which was built-upon rejection of the church, and embrace of the European Union and its ideals.

This is as clear an example as may be wished of how things have changed and reversed over the past half century; how so many institutions and nations that were then net-good have since become net-evil.

And an example, too, of how this is related to the end of traditionalist, institutional Christianity - which once permeated the minds of Men. By Tolkien's analysis, the cursed nature of Ireland is no longer held in check and transformed by the church - so what remains after this subtraction is (overall) evil.

Something analogous, but different in detail, has happened everywhere. Once good nations become inexorably horrible, decadent, depraved; after the influence of their traditional Christian church is removed.  

Yet, as with Vatican II, the churches removed-themselves from their various nations (or at least actively colluded in the process).

So, the experiment has been done; all over the world. And we can each of us see, all around, in exaggerated form (if we have the capacity think and make the choice to be honest) the terrible consequences of Christian apsostasy and unopposed materialism.

It turns-out we all live on 'cursed ground': when Christianity is deleted and materialism is triumphant.

This has become undeniable in the past weeks; with the truly despicable spectacle of most-of-the-world embracing totalitarian, materialist monomania; and the masses succumbing to fear, resentment, spite and despair.

Yet we can get no help from the churches, nor from any other institution. That era is finished.

So we must do now what we probably should have done long ago; which is to take direct and personal responsibility for our Christian faith; to make it a faith of the heart, fuelled by the fires within.


William Wildblood said...

I hadn't heard Tolkien's statement about Ireland before. I wonder if it is connected to the belief that St Patrick drove the snakes out of that country.

Andrew said...

I'm reading Bishop Schneider's "Christus Vincit" and his diagnosis of the Catholic Church's problems match your own. He says since Vatican II the life of the Church has just been full of endless, empty, useless meetings. Bureaucracy has replaced evangelization, missionary work, etc. All truly pastoral work has been replaced by "pastoral" meetings with long vague papers that no one reads...

I have trouble grasping the extent of the situation, but it cements my trust in the analysis to have multiple intelligent, honest sources repeat the message.

Bruce Charlton said...

@A. I believe that it wad not possible to retain the pre VatII church. However that surely made thing worse not better, and the dishonest institutional failure to acknowledge the mistake has compounded the damage manyfold.

Howard Ramsey Sutherland said...

Bruce: Why do you believe that it was not possible to retain the pre-Vatican II RC Church?
I think that after some initial shrinking as the Cultural Revolution hit - as it did full-force immediately after Vatican II closed - a fully orthodox Catholic Church, not enfeebled and with liturgy diluted as after V2, might have been a powerful counterweight and locus for Counter-Revolution, as she had mounted the Counter-Reformation. And might be much stronger, spiritually and even politically, than the Church is today.
When I converted from Anglicanism to Catholicism, it was that Christian orthodoxy I was seeking. I've found it, in fits and snatches and generally ill-defended, in the mainstream post-V2 Novus Ordo Catholic Church - although it is waning and Pope Francis's pontificate is evidence that, for now, orthodoxy is not in the saddle of the Novus Ordo Church.
But I have found true, unabashed Christian orthodoxy in parishes that celebrate the Traditional Mass, often in the teeth of opposition from the Novus Ordo hierarchy. If the Church had not sold its birthright for a mess of supposed-relevance, I think she would be much stronger today - and would not flaccidly have surrendered the sacraments to an outbreak of WuFlu or anything else.

Bruce Charlton said...

@hrs. Because of the evolutionary development of human consciousness. Although this moves incrementally through the generations, so there is still an important role for traditional churches.

Andrew said...

@HRS - Per Dr. Charlton's other analysis - the organization can't enforce goodness. You can't use an organization and its rules to systemize enlightenment or ensure Heaven.

Bishop Schneider points out that all the Priests who corrupted the Church through and after the Vatican II conference had made an "oath against Modernism" that had been institutionalized prior, yet didn't care or ignored it. The prayer to St. Michael to protect against this prophesied time of evil was also institutionalized. Both were tossed out the window by those same Priests... it's all about interior motivation.

I'm still a Roman Catholic and think the sacraments are valid and efficacious, but *obviously* an evil man, with evil motivations, will remain evil if it is his will to do so - despite confession and receiving Holy Eucharist (e.g. various Priestly sexual abuses and sins, modernists, corruptors, who were good at keeping up appearances and following the letter-of-the-law).