Thursday 10 June 2021

For my Catholic readers - you need seriously to consider these points about the birdemic and the church

Francis Berger is himself a Roman Catholic - but his most recent post - which is a point by point response to a Bishop's call for Catholics to return to mass - would also apply to Eastern Orthodox and Anglo Catholics. 

It is a very powerful, heart-felt and angry response to his church's response to the birdemic; and what this response tells us about that church. 

(Note: This matter is important even if you are not Catholic - because together, these Catholic denominations, especially RCC and EO - represent by-far the largest group of organized Christians in the world - as of 2019, anyway.) 

Frank's piece covers the fact that the worldwide churches willingly locked their doors and suspended Mass (and other sacraments and duties), for months or more than a year. But/and now are stating that people need to 'come back', to being attending in person (and, presumably, tithing).  

Read the whole thing, and please consider it care-fully. 

What I see in the Bishop's words throughout is managerialism .

I see the works and thinking characteristic of a clever, hard-working, dutiful global bureaucrat; someone who sees himself as a loyal member of the ruling Establishment; someone who (at the bottom line, when the chips are down) says and does... whatever that Establishment requires. 

Of course the Bishop is being hypocritical - but that is not the worst of it. The worst of it is that he is lying; he is deceiving, selecting and manipulating concepts dishonestly and with intent to mislead.   

And this is a problem with all the churches with respect to the birdemic; they have lied, and they have chosen to support lies from the Establishment - and these are specific lies of habitual and systematic liars - those whose major global policies (e.g. climate change, antiracism, sexual revolution) are all Evil Lies

In a nutshell; the churches have obviously lied, and have aligned themselves with obvious, observable liars; have not repented their lying; and have (therefore) continued to lie. 

Now, the question my Catholic readers need to ask themselves is whether (as Frank argues) the events of the past 15 months have been a devastating insight into the real nature of their church - a revelation of the real attitudes and beliefs of its actually-existing leadership and bureaucracy... 

Or not. 

And the same - but mutatis mutandis (i.e. not about the Mass, but the equivalently up-to-2020-vital aspect of what their church offers) - applies to those who are members of other churches (Protestant, Mormon and others); churches who willingly closed, whose leaders eagerly supported their own suspension, who often stated officially that health was their first-priority (!), who ceased to provide any real-life help to church members (and insisted that virtual, online 'watching a monitor'-type help was a valid substitute for reality). 

These are testing times; and it seems that most devout, church-going Christians have failed the test spectacularly. 

Yet, many know in their hearts that something fundamental changed when the churches went-along-with the birdemic.

The world has changed - and it is the kind of change that is irrevocable. 

So, whatever people say, and whether or not Roman Catholics (or other Catholics) do obey their church leaders and go 'back to Mass': Mass will never be the same again


Francis Berger said...

Thanks for the share, Bruce. I agree with and appreciate your assessment of the bishop's dishonest managerialism. It ties in well your recent post about the evil of lying, which is precisely what this individual is doing.

Jonny McGee said...

"And Simon Peter answered him: Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life." -Gospel of St. John 6:68

I care not for what essentially amounts to Donatist musings, I am faithful to the Church despite the misdeeds of its clergy. Not even Saint Peter's hypocrisy during the Judaizer heresy was sufficient justification for schism. The Gates of Hell will not prevail. Jesus, I trust in you.

The Social Pathologist said...

I'll put my 2cents in here Bruce.

As I see it, Berger's argument is that the Bridemic didn't justify the closure of Churches. Fair enough,but that's a prudential judgement. i.e. his opinion.

What I can't work out why his opinion carries more weight than that of Barron's.
What special skill or charism that he possess that gives him authority to call Barron, and most of the clergy out. Is it his particular competence in Medicine?

According to Catholicism, clearly the most perfect from of worship is "physical" mass, but worship is also contextual, i.e. dependent on circumstances. Catholics have for centuries had mass denied to them by various historical circumstances, no one ever said that they were denied the necessary Graces because circumstances conspired against them realising the "physical mass". It's similar with regard to confession. While "one on one confession" is the gold standard, the extraordinary rite of "group confession" is perfectly legitimate if the circumstances so warrant.

When George Pell was in prison, the only way he could attend Mass was by watching it on television. I hardly doubt that his prayer "didn't count" in these circumstances.

the events of the past 15 months have been a devastating insight into the real nature of their church

Nah. The Catholic Church's problems are far deeper than this.

Bruce Charlton said...

@JM - Good grief, but that interpretation of those Biblical scraps of verses has been worked into the ground over the centuries.

Well, you have made your choice and will follow wherever you are led; but it is You, and Not any church (whatever it calls itself), who are responsible for the ultimate fate of your soul - and will live with the consequences.

Bruce Charlton said...

@SP - Don't you realize you are not engaging with the points made by Frank? You should confront the strong points, not quibble over phraseology and emphasis.

Like "Nah. The Catholic Church's problems are far deeper than this."

Quibbling. Of Course the problems are deeper, at least decades deep; which is Why this happened - nobody disputes this! - But what we have seen is a stripping away of masks, and ambiguities. Actual statements backed by actions and propaganda; that the primary function of the church is 'health' ('health' as defined by the mass media, Davos and WHO etc).

If Roman Catholics *really* can't see the world historic importance of what has happened in their own church, when actually personally experienced; then they are already in a bad place, spiritually.

whitney said...

I completely agree. We are living the book of Job here. And it's not like this wasn't predicted. Pope Leo III had his vision of God and the devil talking and the devil saying the church would be destroyed within a hundred years. That was an 1884, less than a hundred years before Vatican II. That's the origin of Saint Michael's prayer.
There's Fatima, and the vision of the two popes. Illiterate Portuguese peasant children talking about the errors of Russia. It's absurd to think they came up with that by themselves.

There is only one Church founded by Jesus and the Universal Church is the church. I'm going to paraphrase Belloc. The only way an institution so corrupt and incompetent could survive for 2,000 years is through Supernatural protection. Say the rosary daily

Ranger said...

It's quite simple. The Bishops and Priests have to *repent*. They've sinned, and gravely abandoned their responsibility. Until they do, they will have a hard time selling the faithful on the sin of not going to church, and on the transcendent importance of the Eucharist. Both of those things *are* true, but "their actions speak so loud I cannot hear their words".

Sean G. said...

While there are many examples, the closing of the Lourdes healing water in the name of public health was the perfect illustration of revealed lack of faith in 2020. It doesn't get *better* than that.

While I felt myself separate from the Orthodox church in 2020 for the reasons well covered on this blog, my faith ultimately grew into something incompatible with Orthodoxy, such that even a full public repentance by the church would be unlikely to lure me back.

I wonder how many other Christians have had similar experiences.

Chent said...

Look, Bruce, it is difficult for you to understand how a Catholic thinks about these topics, because you are son of the Reformation, where the primacy of the individual conscience is paramount. The same way it is difficult for me to understand some posts of yours. But let me explain. I am positive that you will disagree with me but, since you asked, I will try to explain with the best English I can (not my native tongue).

For me, the closing of the churches during the pandemics was a scandal and a sin of huge proportions. Maybe the biggest sin of Church officials in the history of the Church. But it was only a bitter confirmation of something I already knew. Many bishops and priests of the Catholic Church are not Christian anymore. They belong to the progressive religion and express it with a Catholic language to fool the faithful.

My awareness of this was progressive but started intensifying during the pontificate of Francis. It was shocking to hear the Pope openly stating doctrines that were anti-Christian and anti-Catholic while behaving as the chaplain of the United Nations. Disagreeing with these anti-Catholic doctrines does not make us Protestant, because, as Catholics, we are faithful to the doctrines of the Catholic church not to what the Pope says on a plane.

After much reading, observation and reflection, I reached the conclusion that the Second Vatican Council was the triumph of liberalism (progressivism) in the Church (the French Revolution of the Church, as someone said). After this Council, the establishment had stopped being Christian and had adopted liberalism as its religion. All we see is consequence of that.

So what surprised me of the closing of the churches was not the bishops implementing a anti-Catholic idea (the First Commandment of the Catholic Church says that you must go to Mass). It was the sheer openness, shamelessness and impudence of their actions. Everything was done in the open, with no protest or resistance to the orders of the civil authorities. It was a seamless implementation of these orders. They withdrew the spiritual nourishment of millions of people for months just like that. This filled me (and fills me) with anger. I told my sister: "If priests don't believe what they preach, they can look for another job, the lazy bastards". I agree with you that this proves the convergence of the Catholic hierarchy with the world bureaucracy.


Chent said...


So what's a (very bad) Catholic to do? This is what you will have problem to understand. If I was son of the Reformation, this would prove that the Catholic church is not the true Church. Since other churches are also compromised, I will end up as an independent Christian or a theist.

But a Catholic does not reason like that. The legitimacy of the Catholic Church does not come from the good behavior of its officials, but because it was founded by Christ. I know that you won't agree. Fair enough but you asked for a Catholic perspective. My wife, who comes from a Protestant family, told me once: "I would love to see you in a Protestant cult to see how you feel". I told her: "I am positive that I would feel well, better than in the Catholic Mass. In fact, my spirit is more Protestant than Catholic and I would be happier belonging to a Protestant church".

Why, then, am I Catholic in spite of having a Protestant spirit and in spite of the shamelessness of Church officials? Because I have studied the history of Christianity and no other denomination seems coherent to me. The arguments of the Protestant reformation seem untenable to me. I would be an atheist before being a Protestant, because I see as a really incoherent position. The same with "independent Christianity". Orthodox and Oriental churches are more coherent in my humble opinion, but, when you see the history of their disagreement with the Catholic Church, I see that the position of those churches is untenable.

So, in my humble opinion, when you see the truth, you have to submit yourself to the truth, even if you don't like it. (The modern world is the opposite: the truth is what it feels good to me so I would choose the Church that fits me the best.)

For me, this means that, if I reached the conclusion that the Catholic church is a false church (and this could happen), I would stop being Christian. For me, Christianity would be disproven because no other church seems coherent to me.

Once you are Catholic, you have tools to understand the chaos we are suffering. Multiple saints and Virgin apparitions prophesized that the Church would become corrupted, that the corruption would come from above, that Rome would become the See of the Antichrist, that most priests will be unfaithful, etc.

Once you are Catholic, you believe in the importance of the sacraments. And the sacrament is valid regardless of the moral character or personal beliefs of the priests administering it (this was the lesson of the donatist controversy, back in the fifth century). So I stay in the Catholic church because a) it is the true Church in my opinion so I am not entitled to leave b) It has the sacraments and these sacraments are still valid.

This has been longer than I thought but these are complicate issues and we live in complicated times. The intention of this comment is not to convince you, Bruce. I know this is impossible. We start from very different fundamental philosophical assumptions. I have read you for many years, I know how you think and I can anticipate your objections. But, since you asked, I wanted to explain myself so you could understand Catholics a bit more (while still disagreeing with us).

Sean G. said...

@Chent "Why, then, am I Catholic in spite of having a Protestant spirit and in spite of the shamelessness of Church officials? Because I have studied the history of Christianity and no other denomination seems coherent to me"

A scholarly basis for faith seems dubious. Great scholars disagree about everything and very few of us are great scholars. For me it was abandoning this kind of deliberative thinking and following my heart that led me to Christianity and the Orthodox church.

I appreciate your sincere and thoughtful post. As a now formerly Orthodox Christian I struggled with these issues, but I believe the Holy Spirit has guided me very clearly in a different direction. If I'm wrong may God forgive me.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Chent - A point of information - I think you misunderstand my own history with respect to Catholicism. I currently worship and take communion (once every few weeks) at an Anglo Catholic church - and was once a twice/ thrice weekly communicant at one of the 'highest' churches in the city. When Pope Benedict announced the Anglican Ordinariate in late 2009, I supposed I would take that route - but no churches within my range did so. I looked at the ordinary RCC; but was appalled. After reading Fr Seraphim Rose; I then (in 2010-11) began preparation for Chrismation into the Russian Orthodox church - but the actualities were grossly inadequate to a real church. My point here is simply to demonstrate that I am not, by attitude, a stereotypical 'Son of the Reformation'.

Anyway - you have given a response explaining why you are a Catholic; and that your discernment leads you to believe it is the only path to salvation. You could have written the same argument at any point in the past 400 years.

Your implicit claim is that nothing has changed, and being a Catholic is essentially the same thing now, as ever. This I cannot see. The actualities seem to me to be qualitatively different. Catholics such as yourself claim to be obedient to 'the church' yet everything you do shows that you personally are discerning, picking-and-choosing, within the RC church - even to the level of disobeying the Pope and obeying only a small, selected-by-you minority of Bishops and priests within the church.

This seems to be In Fact a very different way of behaving than a Catholic of 400, 200, 100 years ago. Indeed, I think it is impossible to be a Catholic in the old sense - probably because the RCC (top to bottom, everywhere) is so incoherent and changeable that traditional simple obedience is unattainable.

My point is that you (and all serious Roman Catholics in 2021) apparently Just Are discerning (picking-and-choosing), on personal grounds, all the time, within the RCC; and that this practice invalidates your 'timeless' arguments concerning the nature of the RCC and its place in the scheme of salvation.

What I think Catholics need to do is to acknowledge this fact of the individual layman discerning within the RCC; and rebuilding the theory of the church from this established and unavoidable fact.

This is a huge ask for a traditionally priest-led church, and goes against the grain of what most Roman Catholics seem to want from their church. I can understand why RCs are reluctant to do this. But that seems to be the necessary challenge of these End Times.

Anything less is simply living in a state of incoherent and dishonest denial - and we know where that leads.

Bruce Charlton said...

Over at Frank Berger's blog, in the comment section to the linked post; Islanti came up with a perfect encapsulation of our current situation, which I slightly edit-generalize here. He refers to...

Christians who have spent 15 months quibbling online over what amounts to: "My closed Church is better than your closed Church."

c matt said...

even to the level of disobeying the Pope

Therein lies your problem. Who do you think is the Pope? If you discern that based on the evidence Benedict XVI is the current reigning Pontiff, then there is no disobedience.

Hari Seldon said...

@BC, thank you for this. I am a Catholic and I agree with you and FB.

My own church reopened a few months into the birdemic, but I did not return until October, since it just seemed pointless to attend a service the Church itself had admitted to be inessential. When I started attending again, I was glad I did, because I find mass to be a spiritually uplifting and joyful experience - and I also feel *guilty* when I don't go, so I need to follow my conscience on that.

But I have no illusions about it - something has definitely changed, and while I was never an intensely committed or observant Catholic, the authority of the Church has certainly been diminished in my eyes. The dehumanizing measures that were put in place did not help - mandatory masks and registration to attend mass (fortunately, registration is not enforced and I have never bothered to comply).

Last Sunday we had a beautiful service for the Feast of Corpus Christi and I am very glad I attended. But the homily bothered me because, in addition to being banal and soporific like most homilies, it contained one of the standard birdemic lies. The priest spoke of the uniquely challenging experience of last year and said he knows how painful it is to not be able to see our friends and family, to not embrace our loves ones, to be deprived of human touch, etc.

My immediate thought was: "We *were* able to see our loved ones, and in fact, I *have* been seeing my loved ones, except for the ones who were too terrified to meet me - because people like *you* TOLD them to be afraid!"

The dishonesty in his remarks did not sit well with me and undermined what was otherwise a solemn and beautiful event.

The Continental Op said...

Jesus said (Matthew 23):

"Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses' seat, so do and observe whatever they tell you, but not the works they do. For they preach, but do not practice."

I think that bishop is a liar and an agent of the System, as much of the church leadership is, yet...yet... what he said, from the Catholic view, is true.

So, continue practicing the truth that is above these malignant leaders, but realize that they are very much like the Pharisees of Jesus's day.

Note that in the rest of Matthew 23, Jesus goes on to elaborate 7 woes on these Pharisees.

Jesus makes a way through these walls of people who would shut us out of the Kingdom of God.

Chent said...

@Sean G.

"I believe the Holy Spirit has guided me very clearly in a different direction [Orthodoxy]. If I'm wrong may God forgive me."

I could say the same, Sean. I am not here to convince anybody to be Catholic or to refight the Reformation or the Great Schism. They asked for opinions of Catholic readers and this is mine. Anyone of us could be mistaken (including Bruce or me). But everybody of us have reasons to follow the way we have chosen.

Chent said...

@Bruce -

"My point here is simply to demonstrate that I am not, by attitude, a stereotypical 'Son of the Reformation'."

You are not stereotypical, Bruce, in any way or level.

I said "son of the Reformation" not because of your religious affiliation. I know that you were Orthodox and now you are theological Mormon but you don't worship in a Mormon church. I have followed you since when you were Orthodox.

I said "son of the Reformation" because of your way of thinking, because of your philosophical foundations. This is a way of thinking in which everyone is the ultimate spiritual authority and his conclusions are authoritative, at least for him (see your first post about the Mother of Heaven). This is a way of thinking that begins in the Reformation and has been adopted by the modern world. Maybe the expression was not adequate. You can call it "Romantic", if you will. This is independent of religious affiliation.

I was not criticizing this way of thinking. I was saying that it was very different from mine so it is difficult to understand each other.

"This I cannot see. The actualities seem to me to be qualitatively different. Catholics such as yourself claim to be obedient to 'the church' yet everything you do shows that you personally are discerning, picking-and-choosing, within the RC church - even to the level of disobeying the Pope and obeying only a small, selected-by-you minority of Bishops and priests within the church."

Bruce, being Catholic is not "obeying the Pope". This is a caricature. We only agree to the Pope when he speaks "ex cathedra" (the last time was in 1950, about the assumption of the Virgin Mary). And there have been heretical Popes before (Arian popes) and Popes that had children and were monsters of corruption and crimes (the Borgias, whose hometown is close to my hometown). And of course, being Catholic is not following a minority of Bishops. Being Catholic is following Catholicism: going to the Sacraments, praying, etc.

"This seems to be In Fact a very different way of behaving than a Catholic of 400, 200, 100 years ago. "

Going to the Sacraments is the same now and ever. Most Catholics in history never knew the Pope or what he said. Communications were not like today. They only followed the Sacraments, prayed, etc.

"Anything less is simply living in a state of incoherent and dishonest denial - and we know where that leads."

Sorry, Bruce, but this is uncharitable. The fact that people don't think like you does not mean that they are dishonest or are in denial. You are not the arbiter of truth in the entire world. You should check your intellectual pride.

People have different ways of seeing things, they process information in different manners. It is natural that they have different opinions, especially in complicated matters like religion. I understand that I may be the one who is mistaken and the non-Catholics may be right. But this possibility never occurs to you.

Suddenly, you and Francis Berger have assigned yourselves the worldwide spiritual authority and say that everybody that do not think like you will go to Hell (this means all mankind with exception of two hundred people, to be generous). Heaven must be a very lonely place.

This is your blog and I will let you have the last word

Bruce Charlton said...

@Chent - "being Catholic is not "obeying the Pope""

Well, it depends how hard you press that statement. For most of the intellectual Catholics of the 20th century, I think it was the clear authority structure of Roman Catholicism which made a decisive appeal to the need for clarity and certainty; and this structure was focused on the Pope - to a much greater extent than in pre-modern times. Thus the 'ultramontaine' Catholicism of the most-devout nations (such as Ireland and Poland).

In other words, the most serious Catholics of the 20th century were substantially Pope-focused in terms of doctrinal authority. The Pope was seen as exemplary in his faith; a force of traditionalism, conservatism - urging the laity to aim higher than the secular world etc.

Men have changed, the way you write and think are modern - and surveying the whole of church history for comparisons is simply misleading. There are No overall-analogous comparisons with what we have now in this generations-secular, left, value-inverted world.

We are not in one of the cycles of history, we have gone off the charts, the insane is everyday. The Roman Catholic Church forbade Mass...

This is why that discernment which all Catholics use, everyday, and within their church, needs to operate on more fundamental matters.

In the past, denomination was one big decision after which personal discernment could and should be 'switched off'. Not for several decades has that been possible. For me the big question is whether Christians can with honesty (without un-repented sin) continue to hold-back on spiritual discernment *within* their churches.

When the sacraments (especially Mass) are enthusiastically withheld by the Roman Catholic Church - this is the clearest possible sign that things in the RCC have changed decisively. If this, of all possible things, does not provoke a serious reconsideration - I don't know what could.

Ranger said...

It'd be Donatist if the claim wad that the Eucharist is not the Eucharist because of the sins of the priest. So, if you're Catholic, by all means go to church when you're spiritually prepared to take the Eucharist. Just don't give one more cent to the institution until they publically repent of their very public sins. Tell your priest/bishop so.

Bruce Charlton said...

@JB - Crossed the line into gratuitously offensive.

Sean G. said...

@Chent You quoted me and added the word [Orthodox] but I think you missed the word *formerly* from the beginning part of that sentence. I am no longer Orthodox. I was making no distinction between Catholic and Orthodox, but between system church and home church.

I became Orthodox by following my heart and left in the same manner. If I'm to rely on my reason and research then I am certainly doomed. That was the only point I was trying to make.

Alex said...

Two seriously devout Catholics who are not afraid to criticize the birdemic goings-on:

Chip said...

how about this? Christian Science churches in my area are closed. zoom meetings only.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Chip - I see what you mean. It's analogous to shutting Lourdes, in a way.

The Social Pathologist said...


Don't you realize you are not engaging with the points made by Frank?

I'm not sure what I'm missing here.

As I see it his argument is:

a) The Mass is vitally essential for the spiritual well being of the individual/community.
b) Although he does not say it, I assume in Charity that he recognises that

there are some legitimate reasons for "denying the Mass".
c) In Frances' opinion the "Birdemic" is not a legitimate reason.
d) Ergo, the Priests are rotten for doing so.

Have I missed something or unfairly mis-characterised his argument?

My reply was:

1)That Orthoodx Catholic tradition recognises that the believer, and the community, are still able to receive the appropriate Graces if unable for legitimate reasons to attend Mass.

2) What is Francis's special competence in stating that Birdemic is not a legitimate reason to close down the Churches? Is he a microbiologist, epidemiologist, practicing clinician? Or is he just some guy with an opinion?

As the great catholic historian of medieval thought , Etienne Gilson said, "Piety is no substitution for technique [competence]".

I still don't see why his opinion carries more weight than some other pious Christian who believes in the birdemic.

BTW, an anecdote. My local Church was open for a few weeks before the latest lockdown closed it again. Numbers were back to normal, if not slightly higher during the period in question.

A said...

@Bruce - To me, far worse than closing Mass was that many Bishops forbade their Priests to bring last rites to those dying during the height of the birdemic scare. No deathbed confession, no communion, etc. for a soul actually moving onto the afterlife!

I don't think it's really possible to do worse than that. It undermines the Church more than temporarily suspending the other services.

Your point is quite true. Individual Catholics have no choice but to exercise individual discernment. They can not simply obey and go along with an evil and corrupted hierarchy. This has been the work of The Enemy (to subvert and replace much of the hierarchy) and then tell the faithful "you have to obey the Bishop!" when he subverts, teaches heresy, etc.

Joseph A. said...

It is a grave scandal -- a massive betrayal and a revolting genuflection to the (demonic) spirit of the times. I try to give people the benefit of doubt (concerns about health, saving lives, blah, blah, blah), but I've agreed with you from the beginning that one's reaction to COVID was a useful litmus test. It's one that most bishops -- or at least the most influential ones -- failed. A scandal!

I don't believe that I've ever really engaged you on your point of individual responsibility and discernment -- because it is one that has baffled me for my entire adult life. Unlike you, I don't believe that salvation is chiefly an individual matter. I'm convinced of a "robust" ecclesiology, and I cannot dismiss thousands of years of wisdom in favor of a modernist turn that I do not trust. It carries the whiff of Lucifer's vain promises, the deification of the ego. I acknowledge that individuals and entire peoples should go through a maturation process . . . proceeding to meat from milk, but your presentation strikes me too much as "ye shall be as gods." Of course, there is much truth in that lure . . . the gospel proclaims much the same, but the difference is important. What that difference is, besides the spirit of rebellion, is another matter. For though I believe that the Church is "real" and necessary -- and that it is God's instrument of grace -- I'm still a child of philosophy and an unrepentant rationalist (in the older sense) . . . and you're clearly right when you note that the buck stops on the individual's own desk . . . or, at least, for an individual with the capacity (and burden) to think.

It was while tarrying in the neighborhood of this idea as a teen that I apostatized. Leo Strauss' stark juxtaposition of Athens and Jerusalem (and what the nature of loyalty and of conviction means in those two spiritual cities) shook me profoundly. Around the same time, some deep reading in the Church Fathers finished the job. It took several years to come back, and it was not a perfectly accountable decision (like Sean G. above, though, as with all things, I mistrust our faculties and discernment when not clearly buttressed by principles that we can articulate).

I have no answer regarding these matters, but I believe that we (at least Christians of an intellectual bent, for better or worse) have a responsibility for where we put our trust, and I find it prudent to acknowledge the extent of my ignorance and to lend authority to voices that I may not always understand -- the apostolic tradition of the Church, the sensus fidelium throughout the ages, hallowed saints with keener sight, and so on. Yet and still, honesty demands acknowledging your point. It's not a clean procedure, and simplified invocations of Rome, the ecumenical councils, the Fathers, the scriptures, et alia don't untie all the knots. In the end, or at least here below, we're traversing barren lands, hoping and praying to catch a glimpse of the pillar of fire to lead the way through the darkness.

Bruce Charlton said...

@SP - What you seem to be doing is to reduce the heart-felt actuality of the situation to reduced, abstract statements; so that you can regard what has happened as trivial, quantitative, incremental, nothing special.

But if you read through the comments above from Roman Catholics, you may get a sense of the qualitative severity of the situation, better than I (an outsider) can express.

I felt the global Christian church response (back in early 2020) as a civilizational spiritual failure and collapse, so extreme and severe as to be undeniable - and made far worse by the fact that so many denied it.

Bruce Charlton said...

@MA - I agree. It was deeply shocking - about as bad as could be. Even yet (mostly) still unrepented, I think (I keep coming across statement of self-congratulation from various churches, about how ell they have 'dealt-with' the birdemic, in such 'difficult' times.

However, perhaps it was easier for me to see this because I knew from the start that the claimed extreme severity of the disease was a lie; whereas many people were deranged with panic.

Yet, given the injunction that Christians should Fear Not - to have been deranged by panic is itself something than must be identified and repented - rather than retrospectively excused.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Joseph A.

I doubt we have substantive disagreement here. We each need various civilizational resources; and Christians nearly all need church to some degree.

But the point ought to be clear and explicit that we do so with an attitude of discernment, not submission. As I have mentioned - I initially found this argued by Fr Seraphim Rose, of all people. He made is crystal clear that in modern times (for him, post 1917 Russian Revolution) the aspiring Christian could no longer submit himself completely to his spiritual Father, because the tradition for 'producing' and sustaining reliable, trustworthy spiritual Fathers had been broken.

In modern times we need to regard spiritual Fathers as teachers merely, not as fully-Fathers. We must discern with respect to their advice and instruction.

I would generalize that to the church as a whole. The fact is that churches As Such cannot be trusted, and we need to approach them with discernment, selectively, actively.

This is not a problem for Roman Catholics is general, in that there are inspiring and faithful priests and even Bishops. What would be happening is that the lay Catholic is discerning who can be trusted, and then submitting to that person - yet still with a heart alert for any problems that may arise later.

But in practice, there may not be such a person within range, and who can provide the sacraments. But I don't see any way that regular and frequent Mass can be maintained as the centre of spiritual life - as it was 100 years ago, even 50 years ago. Once accepted as a reality, necessity, spiritual challenge - rather than covered/denied by lies about 'Zoom church' - things can move forward.

Then things become much more difficult - and perhaps the examples of people like the Saints and Desert Fathers might be helpful - some of whom were hermits who did not participate in mass for years at a time. This happened quite a bit in Russian Orthodoxy - where monks are seldom priests. Eastern Europe under communism has other examples - both Roman and Orthodox Catholic.

In other words, Roman Catholics acutely need to have a way of spiritual life that does not depend on frequent contact with priests - not just as a stop gap, but as a fact of spiritual life. And the minority of real priests (as contrasted with the careerist bureaucrats, wolves in sheep's clothing) will work with this - developing new (or rather old) practices; e.g. by continually travelling around their scattered flock to administer sacraments and teach.

Ingemar said...


Francis is a consummate charlatan. He is blaming his subordinates for obeying his orders--shutting down the church buildings. And yet like all System apparatchiks, he freely uses the birdemic as a trojan horse (rather, juggernaut) to advance the System agenda.

A common theme with Bergoglio apologists is that they refuse to square his words and actions with objective reality; a corollary to this is that they ignore data points in the whole dataset that tarnish this image of the See of Peter occupant as anything but a hero of the Church.

Of course, understanding Bruce's corpus of writing, that such a corrupt man (look into his tenure as Archbishop of Buenos Aires, including credible allegations of aiding known sex traffickers) rises to the top of ecclesiastical leadership is a feature, not a bug, of the System.

Where I part company with Bruce and Frank is that I believe that the institution of the Church still matters, since she is divine in origin. That doesn't mean that it will be as obviously visible as it was in the 16-19th centuries. Considering also that a Great Apostasy was foretold in the Scriptures (II Thessalonians Ch. 2) we shouldn't be surprised that so many bishops and cardinals--even occupant of the See of Peter--demonstrate via their actions that they do not believe what they proclaim they believe (or at the very least lack the conviction to oppose the System in a meaningful manner).

Bruce Charlton said...

@Ingemar - We don't disagree that 'the church matters'. I regard the Roman Catholic Church as Extremely important, and I really wish and hope the best for it; otherwise I would not write about it in the fashion I do. By my understanding, many of the best Christians were and are Roman Catholic.

But at an ultimate level; some years ago (around 2013-2014) I thought as deeply as I could about how our God - who is The Creator and also our Loving Father (or, as I believe with Mormons, our literal spiritual Parents) would set-up this world for his Children.

And I simply Cannot accept the view that a loving creator God would set up a world for his children in which the salvation of each child depended on the existence and presence of a church.

To me it is obvious that such a God would make things so that even an isolated one of his children, even one who had never heard of Jesus, would be able to attain salvation. Suitable mechanisms for this would be provided in every case.

For me that is rock-solid axiomatic fact. So I regard any actual church as secondary to that fact. If every church was wiped-out, and every Bible destroyed, and all memory of historical Christianity was lost - every Man could still have salvation by following Jesus.

*How* this might happen is a separate question (which I have often written about on this blog), but this is the basis for my view of the church, any church.

Francis Berger said...

@ Social Pathologist - First off, if you feel so inspired to contest my "opinion", why didn't you take the time to address me directly on my own blog? The link is there in the post. I would have welcomed the opportunity to communicate mano a mano rather than indirectly through Bruce's blog.

Anyway . . .

"What is Francis's (my) special competence in stating that the Birdemic is not a legitimate reason to close down the Churches? Is he a microbiologist, epidemiologist, practicing clinician? Or is he just some guy with an opinion?"

Trust the experts! That's exactly what secular authorities have instructed us all to do since the beginning of the birdemic. It's worked really well over the past year, hasn't it?

This line of thinking seems to imply that you are still undecided about the birdemic. To render my thoughts on the subject legitimate, I would have to possess some special competence to "prove" that the birdemic is primarily a sham orchestrated to usher in a global totalitarian coup, and that I would have to back these claims with hard scientific evidence of some sort to demonstrate that church authorities were indeed mistaken and misguided in their decision to declare themselves non-essential when they obeyed the secular authorities.

Pope Francis is not a medical expert, yet he has expressly declared that vaccination is a moral obligation. Thus, using your criteria, this declaration is also an opinion. How many Catholics do you think will say, "Gee, I don't know about that vaxx. After all, the pope isn't a virologist or immunologist." On the flip side, how many of the faithful will dutifully line up for the peck simply because the pope "said so"?

The difference between my opinions and the opinions of System Christianity is simple - System Christianity's opinions are firmly aligned with practically every aspect of secular leftist ideology - climate change, the birdemic, anti-racism, mass migration, etc. My "opinions", on the other hand, are not.

Having said that, most of my "opinions" are based on assumptions; more specifically, metaphysical assumptions. I stand by my metaphysical assumptions. Can those running organized System Christianity claim the same?

Ingemar said...


I continue to go to Church out of obedience, but also due to my good fortune of having a priest that fought the government and won.

But I also go for the sake of those who can't, or who are so wounded by the scandals of the past year (really, decades) to ask for the graces necessary for their sanctification and salvation.

That said, there may yet come a time where even my little oasis is stripped from me. I know you oppose the "super God", but I truly believe nothing is beyond God's control--not even the birdemic or the future abuses to come. Consider Job.

My faith is largely interior, in that it derives from my soul's longing to present myself to my Father as his son and will endure any trials to return to Him. While the clergy and Sacraments remain, and are powerful helps, ultimately it is to strengthen my faith for the travails to come.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Ingemar - The choices of Men are beyond God's control - either (as I believe) intrinsically, or (as you believe) because God wants it that way.

And it is Men's choices that are the problem. So...

Aside about the Book of Job - this is the one part of the Bible that I regard as utterly incomprehensible! But, at any rate, its nature and position make it mostly a complex, poetic narrative; rather than a teaching text - so I don't think that we are supposed to draw 'instructions' or 'rules' from it.

The Social Pathologist said...


First off, if you feel so inspired to contest my "opinion", why didn't you take the time to address me directly on my own blog?

Because I was replying to Bruce and I'm spread pretty thin at the moment.

Trust the experts!

Well... they do have some legitimacy. I mean the reason why specialties exist is because certain people are better skilled/educated with regard to other tasks. For example, when I seek financial advice, I speak to the accountant, likewise for engineering advice. Experts have a certain amount of legitimacy. I imagine you trust your GP for medical advice.

This line of thinking seems to imply that you are still undecided about the birdemic.

Oh I'm completely decided about the birdemic: It's legitimate, though some of the responses to it have been not been well managed in my opinion,and others have used it to further their aims. I think that the Pope, acting on mainstream medical advice, has been quite reasonable in his directives given the circumstances.

Thus, using your criteria, this declaration is also an opinion.

Correct, Papal authority is strictly limited. Note: it's was the "rightie" Ultramontanists who treated every papal utterance as a matter of dogma.

Now, IF you believe that the birdemic poses as reasonable risk to life and
IF you believe that it capable of being transmitted to others, THEN you have a duty in charity to limit the spread to others so as not to cause harm to them.

Now if you don't believe in propositions 1) +2) Then I can understand why you don't believe vaccination is obligatory. But claiming that the papacy is evil because it disagrees with you about a scientific fact is in my opinion wrong. As is imputing malice onto the papacy when accepting the mainstream scientific advice that you disagree with.

System Christianity's opinions are firmly aligned with practically every aspect of secular leftist ideology

The groundwork for the leftist drift of Christian thought was primarily bought about by the "spiritualist" element of the Christian RIGHT. Conditional Ultramontanism is no different from moral relativism. crypto Jansenism,i.e manicheanism , with it's denial of temporality and corporality leads to a Christian Buddhism which ultimately assaults, christian assertion and identity. Everyone hammers Francis for being soft on the homo's but there's an eerie silence when it's mentioned that prior to V2 there were a awful lot of "right Catholics" who were cheering the Nazi's on. Remember, the paedo's were being protected while Paul the VI and JP II were on the watch. The latest revision of the code of canon law is damning indictment of the more "orthodox" pontificates.

Bruce thinks I'm being flippant when I say that the birdemic response is the least of the Church's problems, I'm not. There is some really deep rot shared by both Right and Left factions in the Church.


rises to the top of ecclesiastical leadership is a feature, not a bug, of the System.

Correct. It's no use arguing to God on the day of judgement that you should be spared hell because you were hard on the homo's while being soft on the pedo's which was the case before Francis.

I agree that Francis drifts left, but its a mistake to simply box him into the good/bad dichotomy. Francis IS complex, but he's done more to reform the corruption of the curia than the previous "orthodox" popes have done in over a century.

Bruce Charlton said...

@SP - OK. Happy to let you have your say (as an old commenter).

But since you have swallowed the Evil Lie and failed the birdemic litmus test - I shall now call a halt to the argument, because I know that it cannot be resolved - because you would not be able or willing to follow what I regard as a coherent line of reasoning.

Nowadays, I Try not to argue with people who don't share my basic assumptions (sometimes I get drawn-in, but I always regret it).

By my reckoning you are on The Other Side in the spiritual war of these End Times, whether you know it or not! That is exactly the kind of thing that has happened over the past 15 months, by my estimation - and why something that seems like the most obvious thing possible, a world historical transformation, the worst setback of church Christianity ever; is trivial/ invisible/ irrelevant to you.

Ingemar said...


Francis IS complex, but he's done more to reform the corruption of the curia than the previous "orthodox" popes have done in over a century.

No, Francis is quite simple. He is a heretic and an antipope. His current "reforms" include attempting to abolish the traditional Latin mass and throwing an occasional bone to conservatives (i.e. excommunication for those who attempt a female ordination) in a dynamic similar to an abuser playing the hot-cold game with his victim. All while vocally refusing to even comment on the credible accusations of enabling and empowering sexual abuses in the hierarchy.

The past year was a disaster for the modernist Catholics because their capitulation to the VirusRegime drove people into the hated Extraordinary Form. And increasingly I'm seeing men younger than me with less educational attainment come to these oases because they recognize The Real. If these young men have come to the realization that the Catholic religion is the source of boundless treasure, they will gravitate towards parishes and priests that share that conviction, no matter what sacrifices it takes. FrancisChurch hates this and like their confreres in the secular left, they are attempting to use force to stop what they couldn't using persuasion.

I've read and enjoyed your content for years, but what I've noticed about you, and many commentators left and right, is a resignation to the inevitability of progress and an unspoken belief in the monism and supremacy of secular power. This manifests itself in a shallow criticism of modernity that in its softness inevitably accommodates it. There is a virtue in detachment realizing that we can't turn back the clock, but at the same time we must, each of us, do the best we can to resist the spirit of the age (that spirit, which of course, is not of God).

Joseph A. said...

"@Ingemar - The choices of Men are beyond God's control - either (as I believe) intrinsically, or (as you believe) because God wants it that way.

And it is Men's choices that are the problem. So..."

There are belligerent commentators who just have to find something objectionable in order to leave a comment. I feel like I might be the embarrassing opposite -- the brown-noser comment-maker. Anyways, prefacing my comment by "no brown-no," the simple type move that you do in the above quote -- so simple, so obvious, cutting straight to the point and refusing to get side-tracked -- is oddly so rare, especially when people talk about important matters. It is a real treat to see it. Your scientific training serves you well.