7 Jan 2016

Catholic conservatives?...But there is nothing to conserve anymore!

Jonathon Van Maren
By Jonathan Ekene Ifeanyi

The piece, ‘Dear Christians: It’s no longer enough to work hard, raise a family, and hope to be left alone’, written by LifeSiteNews correspondent Jonathon Van Maren and published on the 4th of January, 2016, is certainly the best I’ve read this year. The long title itself, as well as a photo of a couple with eleven children therein, initially got me a little bit confused and I thought perhaps the writer intended to argue against traditional Catholic couples who still believe in raising large families. However, as I read on, I got the message, and really fell in love with Jonathon’s style of writing.

“Why is it often so hard to get the churches involved in social causes? Jonathon asks. “...what is holding so many people back from getting involved?” Apathy, he says, is part of the causes; lack of awareness is also part of it. Church-going people are often traditional, conservative people.  They are people who want to work hard, raise their children, and be left alone.

Jonathon continues:

“Have you ever met a parent of nine kids who was a Democratic activist?” Dennis Praeger once asked wryly. Everyone laughed. Perhaps not everyone even knew why it was so funny—it was just an absurd thought. Such a parent, everyone presumes, would have better things to do...

“Herein lies the problem the pro-life and pro-family movement has in recruiting conservative people to engage the culture to combat the social ills infecting our society: There is something fundamentally foreign about “activism.” Indeed, the term “conservative activist” itself seems to be something of a contradiction in terms. Small-c conservatives and traditionalists do not want to change the world. They want to live in it and not be bothered.”

As I read through these paragraphs, what came to my mind immediately was one FB friend who, sometime last month, upon seeing my comment on facebook advocating for a destruction of mosques built by Nigerian Northern Muslims in my Christian State, Anambra, felt surprised and never wasted time to accuse me of using "one side of the mouth" to talk about my “ faith in God” while at the same time using the other side to “advocate for violence”. You know, he was surprised because, for him, what I said simply sounds unchristian—and I certainly can recall getting a similar response from the same man some months back when I once published a piece against high-ranking churchmen who openly support homosexuals in their agitations. The man, who certainly is not a conservative/traditional Catholic and so is certainly not among those Jonathon is talking about, rather saw me as one (although in reality “Catholic conservatives/traditionalists” hardly exist here in Nigeria!) and so was surprised to see me “advocating for violence”, because he believes—as Jonathon says—that conservative Catholics are peaceful people who certainly don’t do that kind of thing. For him, conservative Catholics don’t judge but I was judging. They don’t condemn but I was condemning. They don’t speak forcefully against any issue—as I did, neither do they engage in any form of activism. Church-going people, for him, are traditional, conservative people.  They are people who want to work hard, raise their children, and be left alone. They are peaceful people who want to live in this world and not be bothered.
“Why is it often so hard to get the 
churches involved in social causes? 
...what is holding so many people 
back from getting involved?”
--Jonathon Van Maren


Well I think he was right because I am not just that type of “conservative Catholic”—neither am I a “super Catholic”, though! Rather I believe that “conservative Catholics”—the type Jonathon is talking about and the type the man was thinking about—are mere lukewarm Catholics, in fact, the very people Our Lord refers to when He says: “...because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold, nor hot, I will begin to vomit thee out of my mouth” (Rev. 3: 16).

From cultural perspective, argues Jonathon, the traditionalists and conservatives—most of whom in my humble opinion also behave like mere cowards—“have been thoroughly beaten in the war for the culture. For the most part, we never even showed up. We raised families, built farms and businesses, and attended church functions while secular revolutionaries took over the entertainment industry, the media, academia—and finally, the public education system that now dutifully serves as a conduit for secular “values.” Prayer is out, queer theory is in, and many a middle-aged conservative has found occasion recently to splutter his coffee and gape at his newspaper: “How did things change so fast?”

“They didn’t, of course”, continues Jonathon. “The Sexual Revolution has been unfolding now for over sixty years. But now, for the first time, people are beginning to wake up and realize that what is happening is not something we can ignore, because very rapidly, it is beginning to happen to us. Already, the influences of the entertainment industry and pornography are showing in the youth. It’s why Christian publications mourn the rise of “sexual atheists”—people who still believe in God, but just don’t think His rules apply to their sex life. Churches across North America are hemorrhaging young people as the public education system dutifully does what it was put in place to do: Plant skepticism, undermine the beliefs of any children from Christian homes, and then send them off to university so that the faculty there can finish the job. It’s why enormous numbers of Christians lose their faith during university”.

What came to my mind after reading this paragraph was Allan Bloom’s book, ‘The Closing of the American Mind—how higher education has failed democracy and impoverished the souls of today’s Students’, a book published in 1987, which has been bought, if not exactly read, by millions of Americans since then. In it, which is a solid attack on contemporary relativism, Bloom, a political philosopher, begins by examining the students in the prestigious American universities, and finds them deficient in moral formation, in reading of serious books, in musical tastes, and above all, in love. They are shallow. They have no longing in their souls for anything high or great. Their minds are empty, their characters weak, and their bodies sated with rock and roll and easy sex—or at least with the belief that “sex is no big deal”. These students—who also exist massively here in Nigeria and indeed, all over the world—come equipped with a simple-minded relativism that is quick to close off all discussion with the tag "Who’s to judge what’s right or wrong?" Their relativism justifies an easygoing openness to everything, an openness which expresses their incapacity for being serious about anything. Their proclaimed openness, in fact, turns out to be a dogmatic closedness toward moral virtue no less than toward real thoughtfulness. Indeed, they are spiritually detumescent! Towards the end of the book Bloom turns to their teachers—most of them Catholics, certainly—who are even worse than the students.

Allan Bloom, who died in 1992, spoke in the late twentieth century, and I wonder what he would say were he to resurrect today.

According to Jonathon, “public education system dutifully does what it was put in place to do: Plant skepticism, undermine the beliefs of any children from Christian homes, and then send them off to university so that the faculty there can finish the job. It’s why enormous numbers of Christians lose their faith during university”. Now many traditionalist/conservative Catholic parents who are aware of this ugly trend also feel less concerned, at least provided they can still send their own children to Catholic schools.

Well, “Leaders in Catholic education should revisit Bloom's spiritual diagnosis”, writes R.R. Reno, former professor of theology and ethics at Creighton University.

“Over the years, I have observed that most Catholic deans, provosts, and presidents ignore or even contribute to the slide of higher education into soulless relativism. Most take the integrity of reason and the truth claims of the Catholic Church for granted, even as it slowly declines into the standard, amoral, post-cultural agenda of secular education. Some actively undermine the relationship of the university to the Church in order to deploy the university as part of the liberal Catholic resistance to the conservative trends in the larger Church. Others imagine that multicultural educational ideologies rightly express a Catholic commitment to social justice and the preferential option for the poor.

“Every Catholic university has its own story. But the basic dynamic tends to be the same. For all their good intentions, most Catholic administrators are hopelessly confused and inconsistent when it comes to the goals of education. Just talk to a Catholic dean or college president. They do not want non-Catholic students to be "uncomfortable," and they want everyone to feel "included." Then, not a minute or two later, the conversation shifts, and the very same proponents of inclusion will insist that we need to challenge our students with critical thought and diverse perspectives. Hello! You can't have it both ways—making students comfortable and challenging them.

“Of course”, continues Reno, “what most Catholic educators usually mean is that a professor should challenge the traditional beliefs of Catholic students and challenge any conservative political or economic beliefs that students are foolish enough to expose. This critical project, which is conveniently well-coordinated with the agenda of secular education, has the desired effect of making administrators and faculty feel good about their great vocation as critical educators while—miracle of miracles—making anybody who disagrees with the teachings of the Catholic Church feel comfortable and welcome”.

Now that is “Catholic education”! Jonathon tells us more of what is happening in the secular world:

“The government, too, will no longer leave us alone. As I wrote previously concerning Ontario’s war over sex education, the government needs the ability to re-educate children into the values of their secular system, and will go to war with parents for the right to do so. In some European countries, children are being taken away from their parents because Christian beliefs could “harm” the childrenand some academics are already suggesting that Christianity could, one day, be “treatable.”

“Conservatives want to be left alone to raise their children. The unfortunate fact is that we won’t be....The secularists never had any intention of letting us carve out enclaves where we could live in peace—and a stream of legislation like Alberta’s Bill 10, which would force home-schoolers and private schools to change their teaching on sexuality, is simply the most recent evidence.

“This is why the tables have been turned. Now, it is secular progressive ideology that is the status quo, having successfully infiltrated and established itself in every major institution. They have achieved a new status quo, and we traditionalists have been left with nothing left to “conserve” in the first place. We can no longer be Chamberlain giving up territory bit-by-bit—we are now the frog in boiling water, and have to decide how to confront these encroachments to retain the freedoms we need to live as Christians in a society that increasingly holds us in contempt.

“How can one be a conservative in a society with nothing left to conserve and everything to fight for?” asks Jonathon.

Indeed, I reason with Jonathon. In fact I thought of writing this piece after seeing in one Catholic blog a list of heretical publications of the so-called National Catholic Reporter, which I think proves his point that there is really nothing more left to conserve. Below are just some of them:

NCR, bearing the headline, “Editorial: Our persons of the year for 2015,” officially honoured the plaintiffs behind the most immoral Supreme Court decision since Roe v. Wade, saying: “For their historic roles as plaintiffs in Obergefell v. Hodges and for their faithful public witness as gay Catholics, we name Greg Bourke and Michael DeLe­on NCR‘s persons of the year for 2015.”

Again: NCR officially promotes women ordination: Editorial: Ordination of women would correct an injustice – “Our message is that we believe the sensus fidelium is that the exclusion of women from the priesthood has no strong basis in Scripture or any other compelling rationale; therefore, women should be ordained  NCR joins its voice with Roy Bourgeois and calls for the Catholic church to correct this unjust teaching.”

Again, another publication: Editorial: We need fearless discussion on women’s ordination – “First, we need bold, fearless discussion on the question of women’s ordination. Simple declarations that “the door is closed” cannot be the answer. Second, Francis and other church leaders must see that a ban on full participation by women in the church is obsolete and is no longer culturally significant. Many people — too many people — in the church are prevented from speaking on this issue, some through outright bans and directives, most through intimidation and fear of losing livelihoods and careers. Those of us with the freedom to speak up against this injustice must do so loudly.

Again: NCR on women’s ordination: What took you so long? – “I am delighted that the National Catholic Reporter has formally, on its editorial page, endorsed the ordination of women in the Catholic church.”

Again: 5 minutes with Francis: Women’s ordination – “I am a Roman Catholic Woman Priest … Women priests within the Roman Catholic tradition are shining a light on what the future holds for Roman Catholicism.”

Again: NCR officially promotes and supports sodomy and sedomitical relationships: LGBT Catholics hope that synod on family will lead to welcome for all – “LGBT Catholics hope that the synod will recognize the variety of families in the Christian community and include all kinds in its pastoral ministry. After all, if Joseph was not Jesus’ biological father, the Holy Family was a non-traditional one.”

Again: What makes a family? – “I’m not sure that the church will ever change its views about lesbian and gay people, but I firmly believe my relationship with Honour is a blessing God bestowed on me. All the opposition we encountered from society and church teachings could never shatter my trust that our love is a gift from God.”

Again: Same-sex marriage: The sky is not falling – “On the practical level, how will parishes respond to same-sex marriage? … We will encourage them to participate fully in the life of the church, including the Eucharist. We will treat everyone with respect and dignity. We will allow them the right of their own conscience.”

Again: How the bishops should respond to the same-sex marriage decision – “It is time for the bishops to admit defeat and move on. Gay marriage is here to stay, and it is not the end of civilization as we know it.”

Again: The Catholic church should partner with Planned Parenthood to reduce abortions – “The U.S. bishops and their national staff are deeply and heavily invested in the view of Planned Parenthood as the evil opposition to a “pro-life” view of the world. Would the U.S. bishops as a whole be open to working with Planned Parenthood in a collegial, cooperative manner to reduce abortions? … Just this past month, the New York Times reported that dramatic success of the use of contraception in the reduction of teen pregnancies in Colorado. … Would the U.S. bishops deny this vulnerable cohort free contraception knowing that an abortion is the highly expected result of an unplanned pregnancy?”

Again: ‘Laudato Si’ should have lifted the ban on contraception – “For the sake of the earth and of the poor, it is time for the church to admit that the ban on artificial contraception is doing far more harm than good.”

Again: Why isn’t anyone talking about the synod’s paragraphs on contraception? – “For the global poor, access to contraception can mean the difference between starvation and nourishment, poverty and stability, illness and health, death and life.”

Again: Francis, contraception and climate change – “If I could speak to Pope Francis directly, I would say: ‘Really? You are in the Philippines urging people to deal with widespread poverty and you include in your talk an anti-contraception message? Really? Do you see no contradiction in those messages?'”

NCR’s Michael Sean Winters was also said to have written a piece praising the anthem of the Communist Internationale.

Now all the people propagating these errors don’t come directly from hell, neither do they live in a different planet. On the contrary, they are liberal “Catholics” who live among us, who are surrounded by conservative Catholics. They are fearless, unlike conservatives. They are often bold in their various agitations, unlike most conservatives who don’t even agitate for anything, let alone being bold. They want their voices to be heard everywhere, unlike most conservatives who are mere cowards. They don’t think of what people will say when they voice out their erroneous views, unlike most conservatives who fear a lot about what people will say. They control all Catholic institutions—the universities, the media, the hospitals, etc, unlike conservatives who are merely “people who want to work hard, raise their children, and be left alone”.

Now I, a Nigerian—though a potential Biafran!—have been talking about “conservatives”, “traditionalists” and “liberals” as if such terms are familiar ones in this land of doom, called Nigeria. Quite the opposite. Such terms, of course, only exist in the western world. I got to learn them  from western books, that is, from books written by western Catholics, and when I use them in my writings I’m doing so only because I know that Catholics from the western world also read what I’m writing, and never because I’m hoping to get the attention of some conservative Nigerian Catholics out there. They hardly exist here—in fact, an insignificant number who recently joined the Society of Saint Pius X are seen here as mere insane people!  So whereas in the western world there exist some conservative Catholics who unfortunately have nothing to conserve anymore, here, on the contrary, there are simply no conservatives, to begin with! 
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