What’s Context for the Goose dot dot dot

A conventional move to undercut your ecclesiastical opponents is to attribute their concerns to “the times.” Their convictions are not timeless truths, the argument goes, but spring from the either unwholesome or ordinary concerns of the here and now. Short-sighted is one way to put it.

Massimo Faggioli employs this tactic to conservatives or traditionalists or critics of Pope Francis in the Roman Catholic world:

The growing neo-traditionalist movement in U.S. Catholicism in some ways echoes the development of the SSPX. There is a similar rejection of Vatican II, for instance, which has also manifested in radical theological dissent against Pope Francis. And just as the 1985 Synod seemed to be a trigger for Lefebvre, the 2014–2015 Synod (along with Amoris laetitia) seemed to trigger contemporary traditionalists. And both movements have seized on interreligious dialogue and religious liberty as key issues. But the context has changed significantly since the 1970s and ’80s. Catholic media and social media have helped in amplifying oppositional voices and weakening the sense of unity in the church. These “para-schismatic” voices have effectively been mainstreamed and globalized, harnessed politically against Pope Francis and the Catholicism emerging from the Global South in an effort to undermine the church’s influence on issues like the environment and migration.

The intra-ecclesial context has also changed. A feature of contemporary Catholic neo-traditionalism today is concern over teaching on the family and marriage, and over the rise of the LGBT movement in the church—something that simply was not there in decades past. If Lefebvre’s movement cannot be understood outside the context of French Catholicism, the French Revolution, and laïcité, the U.S. neo-traditionalist movement is incomprehensible outside the history of the American culture wars. A growing media ecosystem of cable TV outlets, internet channels, and bloggers acting as self-appointed watchdogs has helped nurture the movement, while acting in almost guerilla fashion against Pope Francis.

As much as I appreciate Faggioli’s push back against the anti-liberals and integralists now sprouting up among conservatives who are Roman Catholic, I also know the Villanova University professor is a good enough historian to understand that Roman Catholicism would not be what it is without context. As opposed to the notion that this is the church Jesus founded, you don’t have the power of bishops without the establishment of Christianity under Constantine, or the supremacy of the papacy without the rise of the Holy Roman Empire, or Tridentine faith without Protestantism.

In fact, Faggioli’s own preference for Vatican II Roman Catholicism, hardly the church for all time, is the product of a church that decided modernity — finally — was good and the church needed to catch up. You certainly don’t see that desire for relevance in the apostles, monastic reformers, or pope’s who aspired to divine right monarchy.

In which case, Faggioli’s charge of historicism is not in good faith.


12 thoughts on “What’s Context for the Goose dot dot dot

  1. “you don’t have the power of bishops without the establishment of Christianity under Constantine, or the supremacy of the papacy without the rise of the Holy Roman Empire, or Tridentine faith without Protestantism. In fact, Faggioli’s own preference for Vatican II Roman Catholicism, hardly the church for all time, is the product of a church that decided modernity — finally — was good and the church needed to catch up.”

    And that, in a nutshell, implodes the claims of Catholic Answers, etc. Meanwhile, Bryan Cross is busy fashioning answers in his house of mirrors. Meanwhile Scott Hahn is satisfied to have cover art for the Ignatius Bible that suggests he’s a Catholic William Barclay, and groupies who don’t tell him the truth about his own colossally embarrassing puns.


  2. “para-schismatic”
    I like this construction. Maybe instead of referring to Cru, Navs, etc… as “para-church”, we should refer to them as para-schismatic.

    “the Villanova University professor”
    I’ve always thought of Villanova as a c-list school that caters to mediocre students from families with more money than sense. The Catholic answer to Baylor and Wake.


  3. sdb,

    What school caters to students from families with more sense than money? I’m asking for a friend…


  4. The academies provide excellent STEM educations. I hear they are pretty good for languages too. If you can get into Stanford, MIT, Caltech, Hopkins, or one of the Ivies it is probably free unless you are pretty wealthy. Most of the land grants are good for STEM and reasonable for instate students. If you want to pursue a degree in the liberal arts, you probably don’t have much sense… I kid – sorta…


  5. I think Hillsdale is probably the last place you can go besides certain libraries to get an education in liberal arts.

    Stanford, MIT, Caltech, Hopkins are long shots for any student though I’ve definitely been impressed by the grads.

    Academies – my sister went to one and I’ve worked with many grads. I’m dismayed by the outputs.

    Land grants – thanks, I’ll look into this.


  6. My comment above about the liberal arts was mostly tongue in cheek. More seriously, the cost of higher education is such that it is a bad decision for most students to pursue a degree in the liberal arts. There are a large number of great book programs around the country (google top-25 great book programs to get an idea), but they include Notre Dame, St. Johns, Hillsdale, Biola, and U. of Chicago – among others. Lots of landgrants have similar programs such as Clemson’s Institute for the study of Capitalism. The thing is, unless one is really passionate about teaching the liberal arts, it makes a lot more sense to get a broad technical degree (physics, math, statistics, electrical engineering, chemical/petroleum engineering with a concentration (minor) in computer science) and then read the great books on the side. For someone with more modest cognitive capacity and a desire for a higher-ed degree, a degree that comes with a certification in an occupation is a good route (physical therapy, nursing, education, pre-med, accounting, etc…). The debt you take on to pursue these (if any) should be commensurate with the expected earnings from the occupation. Just one insider’s opinion, and you know what they say about opinions….


  7. Not sure how this thread morphed over to various college programs and curriculums, but since it has, there’s this….
    A local TV station’s news program carried a special feature that focused on the lack of skilled tradesmen in the building construction/remodeling industry. There is such a labor shortage that contractors are turning down a lot of remodeling jobs simply because they can’t hire enough qualified workers. I also read a piece someplace a while ago that predicted future worker shortages in various occupations and at the top of the list was auto mechanics/technicians.

    A specialist in construction industry labor blamed a big push for a college education that began back in the mid-90’s, taking too much emphasis and interest away from the trades. I’m not sure I agree with that completely. What I’ve witnessed are younger folks (mostly millennials) who drifted through high school, barely scraping by, who are either too lazy to do the hard construction work or too under-educated to understand how to learn even the basics in some of the trades. Some can’t even read rulers or calipers. And, although a lot of automotive work is diagnostic (reading and interpreting OBD2 fault codes, etc.) in nature nowadays, much of it still involves dirty work, such as oil changes, etc., which no one wants to do.

    The fellow who delivers our mail, and who says he’s only 2 years away from qualifying for retirement, was telling me the other day that he’s working so much overtime that he’s into six figure income for the year – simply because the Post Office can’t get enough workers to pick up the slack. He told me that the postmaster tried to hire some new employees a few weeks ago and wound up with only 4 candidates, either due to lack of interest or because of disqualification (prison record, etc.). And none of those 4 candidates were hired because of problematic background checks, failed drug tests, etc!


  8. Trades are a great option for a lot of people… at least while you are young and healthy. My uncle was a welder and my brother-in-law is. They do pretty well for themselves, but for my uncle, the last few years before he retired were really tough on his body. Most guys can’t keep the job up into their 60’s. When I built my house 5 yrs ago, my contractor was complaining then about finding workers and keeping them at $18/hr – this was for general unskilled construction. A lot of guys just quit after a week or so he said – summers in the south are tough. A friend of mine who runs a concrete business has the same problem. Still, we are only talking about $40k/yr – you can make that as an assistant manager at a QT and work in the AC. Salaries are a lot higher in the oil and gas fields, but this is probably not longterm and the living conditions are awful. Still, a pretty good living can be had without a college degree. Anyone who goes into debt for a college degree is nuts (with a few majors excepted).

    @Walt – another great option is military service and then use of the GI bill to pay for further education. My brother served in the Marines for four years before going to school to be an ER nurse debt free. Not a bad option.


  9. Darryl,

    Nothing is wrong with Hillsdale AFAIK. I said it’s probably one of the only places you can get a real lib arts education instead of the Marxist education offered by other colleges.


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