Even Romans Wasn't That Long

Boniface once again shows why he is a much more important read than Bryan and the Jasons. This time he explains why a papal letter has to be 187 pages (!!!!) long:

Modern encyclicals are a curious thing. The encyclical developed from the papal bull. The bull was a primarily juridical instrument used as a means of promulgating an authoritative judgment of the Holy See, either in matters of doctrine or governance. These could often be very short; we marvel today at reading something like Boniface VIII’s Unam Sanctam (1302) – which famously declared that submission to the Roman pontiff was necessary for salvation – and is only a page long! Papal bulls in the old days knew what they wanted to say and they said it.

The modern encyclical developed out of the Enlightenment period as the popes realized that broader literacy and intellectual challenges to Christian revelation necessitated using the papal bull as a means of educating the flock on Catholic teaching, and hence by the time of the French Revolution the bull had begun to transform into the encyclical, the teaching letters of the modern pontiffs.

The encyclicals of the 19th and early 20th century are lucid and clear. Their purpose is to expound Catholic doctrine and defend it against modern errors, which they do very admirably. A friend recently commented to me that in thinking back on great documents like Pascendi, Quas Primas, Casti Conubii and so forth, one can immediately recall the substance of of them and the force of their arguments. Pius XII taught that the encyclical was the normative means by which the Roman pontiff exercised his teaching office. The same cannot be said about modern encyclicals – who can easily summarize what Redemptor Hominis or Populorum Progressio are about except in the vaguest terms?

That’s not to say pre-Vatican II encyclicals were always to the point; the pre-Conciliar popes certainly had their moments of rambling – but at least their rambling was clear and fun to read!

When we get to Vatican II, a noticeable change comes about. I personally attribute this to John XXIII’s famous principle from the opening of the Second Vatican Council:

“Nowadays however, the Spouse of Christ prefers to make use of the medicine of mercy rather than that of severity. She consider that she meets the needs of the present day by demonstrating the validity of her teaching rather than by condemnations.”

This principle has effected the manner in which the post-1965 ecclesia docens functions. Essentially, the post-Conciliar encyclical doesn’t know what it wants to be when it grows up. The popes have still utilized them as a means of teaching, but rather than teaching what Catholic doctrine consists of, they have increasingly become occasions for popes to explain why Catholic doctrine is what it is.

That’s not entirely a bad thing; fides quaerens intellectum, right? But somewhere along the way the popes seemed to have dropped the declarative aspect of the encyclical in the overly optimistic hope that if we could just explain our teaching to the world – just walk them through our thinking step by step – then maybe the world would accept the Church’s message. Maybe if we simply “proposed” our rationale for belief humbly instead of declaring that we “had” the truth, the world would reciprocate and enter into a “fruitful dialogue” with Christianity that would mutually enrich everybody?

Boniface also explains why recent popes are attractive to intellectualist Protestants even while forgetting the real (or historic) source of their power:

(a) The world does not reject the Gospel because it has not been adequately explained. They reject it “because the light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than the light: for their works were evil” (John 3:19).

(b) Even when its has opted for explaining rather than declaring the Church’s teaching, the Church has done a poor job of it because it has chosen to explain its teachings in terms of humanist phenomenology rather than having recourse to the Church’s traditional pedagogy.

(c) By focusing so much on the explanation and presentation over the declaration, the Church has unwittingly given the false impression that the validity of its teachings are bound up with the force of her argumentation, a kind of false intellectualism. She feels shaky and inadequate simply saying, “Such is the voice of the Church; such is the teaching of our Faith”; she feels she must offer a humanistic centered explanation for everything – an explanation that will “suit” the needs of “contemporary man” – with the effect that her message has become completely man-centered. “He taught as one who had authority” (Matt. 7:29) said the people of old about Christ; but when the Church forgets the supernatural force that stands behind her teaching and opts instead for an anthropomorphized message, she no longer “speaks with authority”, in the sense that her words lose their force. Hence people shrug at the latest papal document and move on.

(d) Finally, because the popes have sought for novel means to propose their teachings, encyclicals lose their strenght as teaching documents and become instead opportunities for the popes to foist their own theological or literary tastes on the Catholic people. The phenomenology of John Paul II, the Balthasarian-Hegelian-Teilhardism of Benedict XVI, and now the sort of “literary theology” of Francis. Each pontiff has opted not use traditional pedagogy, which means every pope has to “try something new” in how they choose to teach.

The irony, of course, is that the more popes “teach,” the less Roman Catholics learn.

Surely someone is smart enough among the bishops to figure this out.

Advertisements

25 thoughts on “Even Romans Wasn't That Long

  1. Comes a time when discipline must take the place of words.

    The only papal bull (oh please spare me the old pun or “Gregorian Bull” quote from the dear old poet J.R. Lowell) I’d really like to see is bull-in-a-china-shop.

    Paul IV’s cleanup job horrified the entrenched interests (nepotism, bishops collecting tithes while not even living in their dioceses, financial abuse, sexual license, etc.: Catholic-in-name-only behavior) associated with the (adequately referenced here) often despicable Renaissance papacies. He had very little interest in the Council of Trent, and didn’t reconvene it during his reign – too many words, too little action for his taste.

    I believe something (broadly) similar will come; but how many Catholics will be left in the US when it finally does?

    (“…Brownson, his mouth very full with attempting to gulp a Gregorian bull” – this would have been written less politely today)

    Like

  2. These could often be very short; we marvel today at reading something like Boniface VIII’s Unam Sanctam (1302) – which famously declared that submission to the Roman pontiff was necessary for salvation – and is only a page long!

    Everyone here who has this taped up on the refrigerator raise your hand. Come on. You know who you are.

    Like

  3. Kevin, how and why do you decide whether the Vicar of Christ is despicable? Is it okay if I think Pope Francis is despicable or is that impious?

    Like

  4. Boniface – Maybe if we simply “proposed” our rationale for belief humbly instead of declaring that we “had” the truth, the world would reciprocate and enter into a “fruitful dialogue” with Christianity that would mutually enrich everybody?

    Erik – Or maybe not.

    Like

  5. The world does not reject the Gospel because it has not been adequately explained. They reject it “because the light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than the light: for their works were evil” (John 3:19).

    Some in reformed pulpits need this reminder from the “old school” Roman Catholic. The church isn’t an educational project that depends on ‘splaining the Bible…. Preach “Jesus Christ, and him crucified…”

    Like

  6. Joel –

    I believe we should treat popes in more or less the same way we treat our parents or our country – the virtue of piety.

    If your father is a crude and violent drunk, an adulterer, an abortionist, etc. – he remains your father, and you respect him and care for him as best you can (please note I have great compassion for anyone in this situation).

    If your country has problems (Operation Northwoods, the Iran Contra affair, the April 2015 rewriting of Indiana state law by California CEOs at the governor’s invitation), you work for its betterment and not stick your head in the sand.

    If the pope is behaving immorally, in the same way you respect the role assigned to him – an important and difficult role! – and carry out your own role within the body of the Church. This requires a love for the Church, founded on a belief that the apostles were given a the mission articulated by the Church- otherwise, you would deny you have a role in the Church, i.e., leave.

    It requires strength, patience and perseverance. Problems can last centuries, and no perfect state will ever be at arrived at on earth. But some times are much better than others. In my opinion, we are right in the heart of one of the greatest crises the Church has ever seen (top 3, probably). This is not cause for despair- it is cause to be realistic.

    “Despicable” is indeed a strong word, but how can the 10th century Pope John XI – with his almost unbelievably great failures of personal morality and his total disrespect of the office he held – be described as anything but despicable? And yet he was the one who granted so many privileges to the monastic reformers of Cluny, to whom we owe thanks for reforming a political and ecclesiastical mess and setting the course for so much that is good in modern Europe (agricultural improvements; the building out of most of the existing cities in Europe; a peace which allowed people to come out of castles; significantly wider-spread education; a flourishing of arts & letters).

    It would have been easy to abandon John XI if our standard had been his personal morality. I think the main reason no one did was that society was in an absolutely wretched state by most any measure (excepting perhaps parts of Germany or England), everyone huddling into castles to flee bands of brigands. But setting up a rival church would have made development of the High Middle Ages quite difficult to imagine if Europe’s later experience with division is any guide.

    Catholics are absolutely not to e-liminate the negative. Indeed, we need to own up to failures as well as celebrate successes, probe causes until we understand how to resolve the issue, and then act – in accordance with our ability to do so.

    Like

  7. http://blog.acton.org/pope-environment

    The Pope’s Green Theology

    Rev. Robert A. Sirico

    Let’s cut to the chase: Much of what is in Pope Francis’ encyclical on environmental stewardship, Laudato Si’, poses a major challenge for free-market advocates, those of us who believe that capitalism is a powerful force for caring for the earth and lifting people out of poverty. But one of the most welcome lines is a call for honest, respectful discussion.

    Francis warns against both extremes: on one end, “those who doggedly uphold the myth of progress and tell us that ecological problems will solve themselves simply with the application of new technology and without any need for ethical considerations or deep change.” And on the other end those who view men and women “as no more than a threat, jeopardizing the global ecosystem, and consequently the presence of human beings on the planet should be reduced.”

    He continues: “On many concrete questions, the Church has no reason to offer a definitive opinion; she knows that honest debate must be encouraged among experts, while respecting divergent views.” That Francis would lend the full moral force of his office to call for an honest debate is a great step for the planet. This has not characterized the past few decades of discussion.

    Like

  8. Speaking of Romans, wouldn’t claims of infallibility gain more credibility if papal writings found a spot in the NT? Why no Romans 2? After all, the latest claims to be speaking to all Christians on earth…

    Like

  9. Kevin,

    My father isn’t a teacher, so he won’t be judged as strictly as a Pope. Correct me if I’m wrong, but it sounds as though you imagine that those despicable Popes may be reprobates. Do you see any difficulty in talking about a reprobate Vicar of Christ? Or do all Popes go to heaven?

    Like

  10. Joel,

    I can’t possibly see how all popes would go to heaven. The idea they would sounds like clear heresy to me. They don’t cease to be men when they become pope.

    This jumped into my mind: ‘To whom much is given, of him shall much be required.’ The verse preceding is apropos as well.

    Reprobates? (checking the word in American Heritage at ahdictionary dot com…) I see two primary meanings:
    1) a morally unprincipled person – everyone has the ability to disregard moral principles, popes included;
    2) one who is predestined to damnation – I wasn’t aware of this meaning of the word – and I don’t understand the Reformed doctrine on predestination, the argument for its scriptural basis, the relevant scriptural quotations, or whether there is a Catholic interpretation to it.

    Do you get the impression many Catholics think all popes go to heaven?

    Like

  11. Joel,

    Chrysostom: “I do not think there are many among Bishops that will be saved, but many more that perish.”

    And of course the famous saying attributed to him (no exact source has ever been found though) and echoed by RC saints throughout history: “The road to hell is paved with the skulls of bishops.”

    Popes don’t get a special pass.

    Like

  12. Greg The Terrible
    Posted June 21, 2015 at 2:59 pm | Permalink
    The latest claims to be speaking to Christians that Rome would never have recognized as such before Vat. II

    That heretical Christians can still be Christians? That heretics cannot love God and love their neighbor as themselves?

    That there are “ordinary” means of salvation means there cannot be extraordinary means of salvation, that since we know God wishes all men to be saved

    I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.

    According to your own religion, if God can predestine some for salvation and others for damnation according to his will or pleasure,

    “Predestination we call the eternal decree of God, by which He has determined in Himself, what He would have to become of every individual of mankind. For they are not all created with a similar destiny; but eternal life is foreordained for some and eternal death for others. Every man, therefore, being created for one or the other of these ends, we say he is predestinated either to life or to death.”—Institutes, Book III, Ch. XXI, Sec. 5.

    Could it not please him to save all? How could it please him to damn any, except of course

    And anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man, it will be forgiven him; but to him who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven.

    Like

  13. Kevin in Newark
    Posted June 22, 2015 at 12:44 am | Permalink
    Joel,

    I can’t possibly see how all popes would go to heaven. The idea they would sounds like clear heresy to me. They don’t cease to be men when they become pope.

    This jumped into my mind: ‘To whom much is given, of him shall much be required.’ The verse preceding is apropos as well.

    Reprobates? (checking the word in American Heritage at ahdictionary dot com…) I see two primary meanings:
    1) a morally unprincipled person – everyone has the ability to disregard moral principles, popes included;
    2) one who is predestined to damnation – I wasn’t aware of this meaning of the word – and I don’t understand the Reformed doctrine on predestination, the argument for its scriptural basis, the relevant scriptural quotations, or whether there is a Catholic interpretation to it.

    Do you get the impression many Catholics think all popes go to heaven?

    Catholicism seriously digs Dante [Inferno,1317]. Popes in Hell, enjoy:

    http://danteworlds.laits.utexas.edu/circle8a.html

    Like

  14. Kevin,

    So how could anyone really care about the fallible teachings of hypocritical men damned to hell? Of course, the answer could be the same reason why people vote for politicians. Their favored politician isn’t the bad one, just all the other scoundrels. I’m sure you all think Pope Francis is a saint. He is an unwitting advocate for the suffering of all mankind, however.

    TVD, they should have included Dante in the Catechism.

    Like

  15. Joel –
    I’m sure you all think Pope Francis is a saint.
    Why?

    So how could anyone really care about the fallible teachings of hypocritical men damned to hell?
    I suspect, as a rule, that the popes who engaged in morally reprehensible behavior are rarely those who made significant contributions to deepening our understanding of the faith. Immorality tends to cloud the mind of those who engage in it, i.e., it blinds them, particularly sexual immorality (masturbation is an act of violence against the soul, akin to suicide).

    Nevertheless, these popes passed down the teachings of Jesus as explained by the apostles (I realize this is a contended point ’round these parts)- perhaps most typically by simply not interfering with others who were engaged in the daily activities of preaching and sanctifying.

    There is a distinction between teaching and acting (although sure, ‘to teach’ is an action). Our fallible human nature makes us a mix of good and bad. The greatest of saints still had to and have to struggle with Original Sin, indeed all beings bearing human nature struggle with it, with just two exceptions (another contended point). The worst of men have made valuable contributions to human history. We’re a bit of a mess, we humans.

    Like

  16. Kevin,
    “Why?”
    Are you seriously of the opinion that Pope Francis will not go to heaven? It would be odd for me to submit to a pastor who is acting so scandalously that it becomes clear he is unregenerate, so that’s why I stated imprecisely what I assume you all must think.

    “Nevertheless, these popes passed down the teachings of Jesus as explained by the apostles (I realize this is a contended point ’round these parts)- perhaps most typically by simply not interfering with others who were engaged in the daily activities of preaching and sanctifying.”

    I’m hearing that Popes are most effective at teaching by not teaching themselves. Your explanation sounds novel. Is this a common opinion or do you take credit for it?

    In saying that some or many Popes go to hell, aren’t you saying that the gates of hell prevail over the foundation or the “Rock” on which the church is built? It’s one thing to say that Peter denied Christ, but it is entirely another thing to say that he’s in hell.

    (To anticipate an objection) If the office of the Pope is the “Rock” and not the visible, individual popes, don’t you have a gnostic doctrine of the papacy?

    Like

  17. Joel,

    Are you seriously of the opinion that Pope Francis will not go to heaven?

    I owe him a respectful disposition inclined to trust; to honor what he does well, not to judge the man’s character or state of soul. I have real duties, he has real duties, we can both be right, or wrong, and we both have minds.

    It doesn’t occur to me to try to determine whether or not someone is going to heaven. I can determine that a particular action someone has taken is wrong (whether foolish, imprudent, evil, or neutral), but I know only the tiniest percentage of all of the actions others take in life. Further, I can’t read minds to evaluate intentions. Plus, people can change- for better or for worse.

    It seems to me inappropriate to assume anyone – pope or not – is going to heaven. I don’t know any Catholics who talk this way, whether priest or lay, educated or not. I can’t say there aren’t any, just relaying my experience and how strange it would be to me to hear someone talk this way.

    We can have a reasonable hope of salvation, and reasonable hope that others are in Heaven. I’m stepping outside my comfort zone to say this, but I think the former is more sure than the latter – we have a better knowledge of our own minds and actions than those of others. It would take a good deal of evaluation to to determine whether it is reasonable to hope another is in Heaven.

    It would be odd for me to submit to a pastor who is acting so scandalously that it becomes clear he is unregenerate – “unregenerate” is a new word to me, and looks like a technical term of Reformed theology – I would need to think about this before replying. But regarding following those whose behavior is scandalous – it is a very sad thing, certainly- but again, I don’t think we should abandon those to whom we have obligations (and vice versa) when they err.

    I believe a number of our presidents have behaved scandalously (Wilson, both Roosevelts, Truman, Kennedy, Reagan, Clinton, Obama, Rumsfeld, Cheney… oh wait, God preserved us from the two latter)- and yet none of this warrants revolution. It is still more the case with the pope. That’s the best I can do at the moment.

    I’m hearing that Popes are most effective at teaching by not teaching themselves. Your explanation sounds novel. Is this a common opinion or do you take credit for it?

    Popes teach best when they act with thought and care, either gently or forcefully as the need requires. In the tragic (and rare) case of a bad pope, it is better for them to not interfere with those who continue to act rightly.

    I take all credit for any novelties, and am thankful for fraternal correction. I don’t see any novelty here. I’m not sure I understand “a gnostic doctrine of the papacy,” but the office is essentially carried out by a real flesh & blood man. Can you clarify?

    It is preposterous to think Peter is in Hell. This is likewise true of a great many popes. Other popes we know very little about. Others were bad (my limited historical knowledge tells me a fairly small number, but I am not a papal historian and not interested in becoming one).

    The 19th century brought us a particularly astounding series of popes – brave, brilliant, effective – a wonderful thing, but we shouldn’t get carried away, expecting this all the time, because we’ll then be tempted to airbrush real problems. There is no reason to box ourselves in like that. “Peter has no need of our lies; he has no need of our adulation.”

    There are things in this article I would qualify, with which I may not fully agree, but: http://rorate-caeli.blogspot.com/2014/11/ten-tips-on-how-to-survive-calamitous.html

    “Veneration for the Successor of Saint Peter is laudable and necessary, but Papolatry is as worthy of condemnation as any kind of idolatry, and it has always been viewed as ridiculous and pathetic by those Catholics who have lived in deeply Catholic cultures throughout their lives.”

    “Now it can be said briefly that those who defend blindly and indiscriminately any judgment whatsoever of the Supreme Pontiff concerning every matter weaken the authority of the Apostolic See; they do not support it; they subvert it; they do not fortify it… . Peter has no need of our lies; he has no need of our adulation.” — Melchior Cano, influential Spanish Cardinal at the Council of Trent.

    Like

  18. I don’t want to follow every digression to its end, so I’m going to go back to my initial question now that I’m understanding your position a little better.

    “Do you see any difficulty in talking about a reprobate Vicar of Christ? ”
    I understand that the word reprobate is not one that you use, but I don’t know a similar term that you would use.

    Likewise:

    “In saying that some or many Popes go to hell, aren’t you saying that the gates of hell prevail over the foundation or the “Rock” on which the church is built? It’s one thing to say that Peter denied Christ, but it is entirely another thing to say that he’s in hell.”

    I didn’t intend to imply that anyone thinks Peter went to hell. That’s the point. The Popes haven’t always been like Peter. Popes have been evil, unrepentant men, and it seems that some “perish.” My question is how exactly do you square that with the idea of the papacy that your church promotes?

    I’m asking you specifically, because you were willing to call some of the Popes despicable- I agree with your assessment- and that type of judgment of them does not seem to square with my understanding with what Rome thinks of the Papacy.

    Like

  19. Joel –

    —“Reprobate”
    American Heritage makes ‘reprobate’ cognate with ‘scalawag’ – now that’s a word.

    I believe your meaning of ‘reprobate’ is ‘One predestined to eternal damnation.’ In this sense, I do see difficulty in talking about anyone being reprobate, theological difficulty, which I’d like to talk over with my theologian friends and neighbors – one a Presbyterian and self-described ‘orthodox Calvinist, practically the only one around’, the others Catholic – the next time I see them.

    — Rock of Peter and Personal Immorality of Popes

    A good place to start for understanding what Rome thinks of the papacy might be Pope Benedict, e.g. a Bavarian TV appearance in which he discussed the Holy Ghost (“Der Heilige Geist”) & the the papacy:

    “Probably the only assurance he offers is that the thing cannot be totally ruined… There are too many contrary instances of popes the Holy Spirit obviously would not have picked!”
    http://ideas.time.com/2013/03/11/does-the-holy-spirit-choose-the-pope/

    Is your concern an immoral pastor will teach you falsehood and lead you down the wrong path with him? A fair concern. I can see how an individual pastor might wield a great deal of influence (intellectual and emotional) over the individual congregant. This isn’t ideal, though – it is an excessive reliance on man (be he pope, priest, or Protestant pastor).

    But I think, generally, the teachings need to be evaluated as teachings, and the actions as actions. This is where catechisms come in – i.e., an organized aggregation of the best attempts by man to summarize God’s teachings and make explicit truths about his nature. The Westminster Larger Catechism is an example, e.g., its discussion of the personal properties of the three persons in the Godhead.

    —As an aside, I noticed the WLC includes the Filioque:
    […] and to the Holy Ghost to proceed from the Father and the Son from all eternity.

    Like

  20. I’m not really concerned with an immoral pastor teaching falsehood. I’m more interested in the nature of the Papacy.

    Peter was immoral, but he repented, so that isn’t really the question either. The question is how can someone in the Roman church say that the Rock has been (from time to time) cast into hell. That type of rock doesn’t seem immovable or something that the Church ought to be built on. If the Rock is the teaching of the church, then I don’t see a problem with a hellish Pope, but that isn’t what I learned about Christ’s institution of the Papacy.

    Maybe Ratzinger thinks of the Papacy in a gnostic way. It isn’t the Francis or Benedict or Peter that is the Rock, but the invisible institution of the Petrine Office- that is what the Church is built on. That’s the Rock we can really trust for the Church’s stability.

    Like

  21. Joel,

    Maybe Ratzinger thinks of the Papacy in a gnostic way. It isn’t the Francis or Benedict or Peter that is the Rock, but the invisible institution of the Petrine Office- that is what the Church is built on. That’s the Rock we can really trust for the Church’s stability.

    I don’t know what you mean by “a gnostic way”- I don’t think the papal office alone is what is referred to as ‘the Rock’, since the office requires a flesh & blood actor making decisions on a daily basis in order to fully carry out the duties assigned to it. I’m not speaking ex cathedra here, just some initial thoughts:

    The fundamental structure of the Church requires more than just the pope – pope, bishops (& priests), lay – and Peter was the first occupant of a part of that structure (papal office). Conceivably the Church could be reduced to the pope and small group laymen, but this is a scholastic puzzle, extravagant speculation, or fantastic premise for one of the best novels ever written (Lord of the World).

    The papacy resides in a flesh & blood man, and yet its seat can be empty (e.g., in between popes – usually for days, in numerous times in history for weeks or months, at times for years). The papacy is an elective monarchy – perhaps these relatively frequent intervals in which the ‘seat is empty’ are a feature, not a flaw, demonstrating to bishops and the lay they have duties to perform as well.

    So, as the Church often continues in a (usually quite brief) period where there is no pope, relying upon the bishops and lay faithful to soldier on, I don’t see that the ‘Rock’ of the Church is undermined in the case of a pope who fails to live up to Christ’s call and, regrettably, isn’t welcomed into Heaven.

    I think you are going to reply that I have laid out “a Gnostic way” of understanding the papacy (despite my emphasis on the essential role of flesh & blood in carrying out the work of the Church), but again, I don’t understand what you mean by the phrase.

    Like

  22. Yes, so the foundation of the Church is flesh and blood- fallible Popes, but they aren’t a firm foundation, as they may be shaken and lead those who follow them down to hell. I couldn’t look to the Pope for any assurance that I’m in the true church. I’d have to look elsewhere for a firm foundation.

    To your credit, I don’t think you replied in a “gnostic” way, so I won’t take the time to explain.

    Like

  23. Can a universal bishop avoid the pitfalls of contemporary environmentalism (a little subsidiarity please):

    Scruton argues: “When it comes to environmental policy…the worst thing that can happen is that the left-wing movements and their mobilized spokesmen should prevail. The best thing is that ordinary people, motivated by old-fashioned oikophilia, should volunteer to localize the problem, and then try to solve it. If they are losing the habit of doing this, it is in part because governments, responding to pressure groups and activists, have progressively confiscated the duties of the citizens, and poured them down the drain of regulation.” (251-52) Scruton’s concepts of oikophobia and oikophilia, which have entered the conservative lexicon, play a prominent role in his analysis. Oikophilia is love and affection for home, for that which is ours and which we partake of with others, and from which we spring; oikophobia is its opposite. Scruton sees kinship between oikophobia and adolescent rebellion, and sees this essentially psychological phenomenon as a driver of a great deal of activity on the left, including rejection of tradition, efforts at social engineering, and affinity for remote but intrusive government.

    For Scruton, it is in part because of the rise of oikophobia that the locus of environmentalism has shifted away from local communities to remote centralized bureaucracies, international bodies, and N.G.O.s. Anthropogenic global warming or climate change has become the almost-exclusive focus of the environmental movement in part because it seems to demand action at these levels. And, more broadly, old antagonisms between ‘left’ and ‘right,’ which once centered on economic issues and poverty, have been transferred to the environmental realm: “Egalitarians, who might once have blamed unbridled capitalism for the inequalities of the industrial society, now blame unbridled capitalism for the unjust appropriation of the earth…” (75). Global, catastrophic environmental issues perfectly fit the “salvationist” tendencies of the left (81), and anti-global warming proposals, including those considered by the U.S. government, “emanate a sense of dream-like unreality” in their impracticality. (58) In Scruton’s discussion, one may hear echoes of Eric Voegelin’s concept of modern Gnosticism and Irving Babbitt’s concept of the Rousseauesque romantic imagination, though neither thinker is cited. At any rate, there is clearly much more going on in contemporary environmentalism than concern for the environment per se.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s