Beauty: Unhip, unhappening, un-now, un-Catholic?
The Catholic Church is under assault from the brownshirts of the Movement for Deracinated Sexuality and its Vichy government in Washington.
Our bishops decry the fiscal destruction of Catholic social services and health care by bureaucrats who insist, in the name of equality, that the church give its blessing to what it theologically and morally cannot. They fret that Catholics are being pressured not only to render unto Caesar what is Caesar's, but render what is God's, too.
We all talk about Jesus' command to "take up your cross and follow me," but we all hate it when our turn comes. They killed Him. On His account, they'll kill us, too, given the chance. On to Calvary.
But what really irks me is not that secularists resort to persecution in the name of liberty. That's their nature, like it is the nature of dogs to eat their own vomit.
No, what irks me is that my church -- through its sins and sins of omission -- has made it so damned easy for the devil. Half of those aggrieved bishops have been asleep at the switch, it seems; the other half have been tearing up the track, and now everyone is shocked, shocked the train's come undone.
There's the lack of catechesis, which is a fancy way of saying we haven't passed the faith down to our young for the better part of half a century now. And, of course, there's the Catholic sex-abuse scandal. That's a fancy way of saying Satan is running amok in the sanctuary.
THEN THERE'S the Catholic War on Beauty, waged mercilessly by the liturgical betters of the schmucks in the pews, since the first day in 1964 that somebody handed a guitar to a coffeehouse-washout folk singer and said "Go do Mass. And be relevant."
Being "relevant," of course, means "Ignore the accumulated wisdom and beauty of the ages, compiled through the blood, sweat, tears and prayers of the communion of saints." Sometime around 1964, I imagine, that prototypical anti-Dylan first decided "Kumbaya" would be really cool to sing at Mass.
It had to have been like letting the Ebola virus loose at a preschool. A mere couple of decades later, we had whole Masses written by Marty Haugen. My God, Harry Truman just dropped The Bomb on beauty.
On our ability to . . . check that . . . on our desire to look upon the face of God.
Looking upon our own deformed visages in sanctified self-worship is so much more satisfying to us now. Which explains the implicit arrogance of "Gather Us In."
But it's worse than that.
For instance, one has to wonder whether the Haugenification of the Catholic Church is manifestation or, to some degree, causation. It's the whole chicken-or-the-egg question: Did our abandonment of holiness and responsibility lead to the godlessness that spawns ugliness and banality, or did our utilitarian embrace of ugliness and banality in the name of "relevance" render us unable to see God?
How does one "see" God, after all, this side of heaven? One sees God in beauty . . . which we Catholics largely have abandoned in the name of utility. That and liturgical lounge lizards.
Maybe it's a moot question now. Maybe what we have here is a feedback loop of mundane wretchedness, both artistic and spiritual. Not to mention moral and behavioral, as in the case of The Scandals.
Whatever the case -- and this gets me back to where we began -- the church now is under attack from a hostile culture and government because we succeeded in losing the culture, something which never is won in the first place so much by argument as it is through aesthetics and witness. Beauty can bypass the brain and its defenses to conquer the soul, and American Catholicism thus has unilaterally disarmed.
And our culture now belongs to the barbarians.
On the bright side, though, martyrdom historically has been an effective witness, too. So there's always hope.