Saturday, April 28, 2012

Some SSPX Marriage Practicalities

If the SSPX is reconciled with the Vatican, the canonical practicalities will have to be hammered out. I trust the Vatican will remember to dot all the i's and cross all the t's.

One of the things that will need to be handled is SSPX marriages and annulments. Now, the Vatican could tacitly accept the SSPX's theory of "emergency jurisdiction" for something like confession under the assumption that, even if confessions were invalid for lack of faculties, people will surely go to confession again once faculties have been granted, so you might as well let sleeping dogs lie. And these wouldn't even have to be general confessions reconfessing things confessed to SSPX priests before the faculties were officially granted, because if the old sins are omitted in sincere good faith (ie, the penitent assumes the previous SSPX confessions were valid, even if they weren't) then the new absolution will cover it all, so there is no huge issue here. I also wouldn't be surprised if some trads, "just to be on the safe side," made general confessions after official faculties are granted.

Marriages, however, are another question. The Vatican cannot just wink at that situation, there has to be an official decision (or there could be a mess in canonical tribunals later involving SSPXers). I'd suggest that the Vatican simply put its rubber stamp on en masse on all the SSPX "annulments." These are trads after all, critical of how common annulments are in the US and such, I think we can safely assume all their "annulments" really did determine true cases of invalidity and so officially sign off on those conclusions without requiring a new canonical trial for each case.

SSPX marriages, however, cannot just be assumed valid. Yes, there is this claim of emergency jurisdiction, but we have to be safe. All SSPX marriages in which consent persists should be radically sanated upon any reconciliation. Those which have broken up in the meantime, where consent does not persist, pose a trickier case, however. Likely, canonical courts will just treat them as invalid and give them an easy "defect of form" annulment if they want to remarry (or already have), but the SSPXers aren't necessarily going to like this (seeing how it basically seems to implicitly refute their "emergency jurisdiction" idea). 

Indeed, it could get interesting, as some of the divorced parties themselves may still be SSPX traddy types, and consider their SSPX marriage as having been valid (even though it formed and then fell apart before the granting of jurisdiction and radical sanations), and might try to throw a fit if their spouse remarries based on an annulment granted merely on the grounds of a canonical assumption that SSPX marriages (until the radical sanation) were invalid by defect of form.

It could be interesting...

Friday, April 27, 2012

Idealism Misused

Recently I've become something of an Idealist, at least as I understand that term. Like with all my philosophizing, I'm no expert; I'll proudly admit to having read none of the sources and to not being terribly familiar with the "academic" landscape of these discussions. 

However, I do know that I've long perceived that we can't make any "objective" arguments outside the structure of human consciousness and meaning-making itself. Descartes "I think therefore I am" is less an argument against skepticism, and more simply a statement of the relation between "thinking" and "being," between the categories of knowledge and existence. As I recently saw it phrased on another blog, "We are the true architects of the cosmos, not so much because we make everything, but because we give it meaning in our minds. In the end, that is the same thing." The only caveat I would add to this is that God is the ultimate Subject, the Supreme Meaning and Meaning-maker (the same thing at that point) and so this is not about some sort of solipsistic humanism. 

This is why I am, perhaps, inclined more towards "epistemological arguments" for God rather than "ontological" arguments, and why I really can't understand the materialist worldview that would deny miracles; if a miracle is constructed as having occurred (which would be an event of consciousness)...then a miracle has by definition occurred!

However, I think some people make a serious error here when it comes to Idealism. I think many people, attempting to "save" Christianity or the supernatural from materialist arguments against it...appeal to Idealism, but then undermine that very appeal by doing so in a way that implicitly concedes materialism as the fundamental "real" of reality. In other words, they think that they can make religious plausible again by simply redefining the terms of the argument, but without actually following through on the paradigm shift. To me this is like the hierarchy trying to adopt the language of modern liberalism but then not realizing the philosophical implications of this and trying to maintain the underlying Catholic dogma or premises.

Specifically, as I discussed in the comments to my last post, I think this can best be demonstrated in certain attitudes towards the miraculous and most especially towards the Resurrection. You will get many liberal Christians nowadays who, attempting to appease the materialists who reject the idea a priori that a body could never "really" rise from the dead, essentially concede that to them but then say, "But! The Resurrection was an 'event,' a revolution in human consciousness, a meaning constructed by the community in such a profound way that it becomes 'the Truth' even if it isn't a 'fact'. Jesus rose from the dead because He redefined what it even means to be 'alive.'" 

However, this cleaving of Truth and "fact," or an attempt to save the dogmatic formulae of Faith through meanings changed to fit "reality" actually a bastardization of Idealism as I understand it. In Idealism, in some sense, being is meaning, and meaning is being. Reality is constructed, and something "is" only inasmuch as it is a potential object of construction. Without that, a chair is a pile of wood (and a pile of wood is just a collection of atoms, and a collection of atoms is just...etc etc, until you reach mere pure potentiality; in other words, all these being labels are ideas imposed or, perhaps rather, "read into" experience by intelligence). 

As such, to posit a sort of materialist "real reality" and then the idealist "constructed reality" on top of to miss the point of Idealism. The point of Idealism is that there is no "real reality" underlying "constructed reality," because constructed reality is all that "is" by the very meaning of "is" as it relates to conscious intelligence and meaning-making. It is thus incorrect to say anything like, "Jesus may really be dead, but not according to the new Christian definition of Alive." No, the whole point of Christianity is that the Christ event (should I shudder at having used that term?) is very much constructed according to the old meaning of "alive." It's not that the meaning has been fudged to fit reality, it's that reality has been constructed (by both God and the Church) according to that meaning.

So someone who says that "Christ is risen from the dead" but then "really" believes this means something other than what would commonly be imagined as "rising from the dead" (because he believes the Resurrection was really a meaning constructed by the community, or a "revolution of human consciousness" etc.) actually don't understand the theory they themselves are cribbing from. The whole point of the idea of reality constructed would be that, in constructing that "event" as "Jesus rising from the dead"...there is at that point then no meaningful distinction between the "revolution of consciousness" and the "commonly imagined literal image" idea. To construct that event as a bodily Resurrection is to mean that it is literally equivalent.

If, however, we can "secretly assert" that the two things are "really" different, then that defeats the whole purpose of the "constructed reality" idea which requires that there be absolute equivalence of significance in our understanding. Of course, there are always differences between any two events or objects; the whole point of the idea of reality-as-constructed is that we impose (or, again, "read onto") the ideas of similar and different onto experience. If we say a swan "glided across the water like a motorboat" there will be some ways this is true and some ways it is not; if we mean that it did so powered by gasoline, it would not! 

All language is analogical like this. So when we speak of the idea of "rising from the dead" we are already invoking analogies. One seems to be the idea of rising from the dead being like rising from sleep. It also, of course, depends what we mean by "alive" and what is the essence of that description. And indeed, we do make some distinctions too: Christ's "glorified" Resurrection from Lazarus's temporal restoration to natural life, etc.

It is invalid, however, to read the Gospel accounts of Christ's post-resurrection appearances and then say something like, "Well, they didn't really-really happen, but they also did really happened because there really were events of constructing those meanings in those experiences in the community." This is invalid because it assumes there is a "really-really" (ie, some sort of semantic "absolute frame of reference," which for some reason is just assumed to be the materialist account) and that the "meaning" of the Resurrection is layered on top of this. But the whole point of Idealism is that there is no "objective" frame of reference or system of meaning that is "more real" (except, of course, God's perspective; His subjectivity is our objectivity). 

If we understand that this whiteness and roundness is no longer "bread" but Christ, and believe God is defining things this way too; then it is true, because there is no "is" outside of that framework. This is why the Eucharist is perhaps the supreme demonstration of how Faith is supposed to work. Yes, we'd fully admit (especially in admitting that the "accidents" are still those of bread) that the reality there could be interpreted a different way by different people and, in fact, that there is a sort of "more obvious" interpretation based on the "natural" common sense system of meaning or framework of constructing reality. However, the whole point of asserting that it nevertheless is Christ, body, blood, soul, and divinity, is to say, basically, that the reality-construction of Faith admits of no judgement or interrogation by any of these external standards or systems. We simply have to ignore the World, ignore unbelievers, even ignore our own "natural" sense-based system of "common sense" meaning, and nevertheless assent to the reality based on Faith in the testimony of divine authority alone. We must accept that this is the only "really-really" and that these other notions of real, these other systems of constructing reality...are the ones that must answer to the understanding of Faith, to its definition of the real, and not vice versa.

Likewise, if we understand Christ as risen from the dead, and not just under the accidents of other things, but in His own sensible body as described in the Gospels, and we understand this as God's understanding as well, then that is true and there is no external standard of "really real" to which we can compare that. The Resurrection is different than the Eucharist in this way, then: with the Real Presence in the Eucharist, we'd fully admit that systems of construction other than Faith can (and will) construct the reality differently (as bread; this is what it means that the accidents are maintained). But the Resurrection admitted no such distinction and the claim is that what occurred...occurred in a manner that its substance would have been compellingly and immediately evident and agreed upon to anyone who experienced it (albeit it was mainly only those with Faith already, except Saul/Paul, who got to experience it).

So the "naive" imagining of Christ standing in a room talking to the Apostles is absolutely a valid way to imagine it. Can we say that what we're imagining when we here the Gospels is a photographic image of what the Apostles experienced? No, but we can't do that when anyone describes any event to us via language; details are always left out, no description can convey all the information an experience contains. But, we can say that in its essential features it is a totally valid and legitimate representation of what occurred and was described, and so is substantially as "real" as the construction "I am sitting at my computer typing this." 

You can debate about what "body" means or what "seen by the senses" means or "talking" or "communicating," I suppose, as you can in any description. But the moment you seem to be drawing a distinction between that "bodily presence" and bodily presence as we otherwise commonly understand it, in a manner that concedes that the Resurrection's similarity is (under any framework or standard) somehow "less real" or somehow only equivalent in a manner substantially or essentially different than the normal use of those words (ie, such that someone could have experienced the same thing and still constructed it differently) have slipped into damnable heresy, and are condemned by Paul's "If Christ is not raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain."

Saying "Christ is risen" may be a construction of reality, a meaning read into experience by the community of Faith (and its God, its supreme Meaning). But when you say that, you have to apply this paradigm across the board and remember that, at that point,  the idea "I'm sitting in a chair reading this" is just as much a constructed reality admitting of just as much deconstruction because, in this sort of Idealism, there is no "really-really" that is "underneath" or "behind" meaning-constructed reality, and there's certainly no reason to concede that the materialist notion is the "default."

Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Oath Against Modernism

(By the way, I'm switching fonts because the new blogger no longer sizes Georgia correctly, so now it's Times New Roman...)

They really have to bring this back. I'm realizing lately how pervasive and yet destructive this error really has become. Reading the encyclicals of St. Pius X on the matter really is eye-opening. And yet, I wonder how many Modernists, in their intellectual arrogance, have bothered to read the refutations to their chosen school therein contained...
I . . . . firmly embrace and accept each and every definition that has been set forth and declared by the unerring teaching authority of the Church, especially those principal truths which are directly opposed to the errors of this day. And first of all, I profess that God, the origin and end of all things, can be known with certainty by the natural light of reason from the created world (see Rom. 1:90), that is, from the visible works of creation, as a cause from its effects, and that, therefore, his existence can also be demonstrated: Secondly, I accept and acknowledge the external proofs of revelation, that is, divine acts and especially miracles and prophecies as the surest signs of the divine origin of the Christian religion and I hold that these same proofs are well adapted to the understanding of all eras and all men, even of this time. Thirdly, I believe with equally firm faith that the Church, the guardian and teacher of the revealed word, was personally instituted by the real and historical Christ when he lived among us, and that the Church was built upon Peter, the prince of the apostolic hierarchy, and his successors for the duration of time. Fourthly, I sincerely hold that the doctrine of faith was handed down to us from the apostles through the orthodox Fathers in exactly the same meaning and always in the same purport. Therefore, I entirely reject the heretical misrepresentation that dogmas evolve and change from one meaning to another different from the one which the Church held previously. I also condemn every error according to which, in place of the divine deposit which has been given to the spouse of Christ to be carefully guarded by her, there is put a philosophical figment or product of a human conscience that has gradually been developed by human effort and will continue to develop indefinitely. Fifthly, I hold with certainty and sincerely confess that faith is not a blind sentiment of religion welling up from the depths of the subconscious under the impulse of the heart and the motion of a will trained to morality; but faith is a genuine assent of the intellect to truth received by hearing from an external source. By this assent, because of the authority of the supremely truthful God, we believe to be true that which has been revealed and attested to by a personal God, our creator and lord.

Furthermore, with due reverence, I submit and adhere with my whole heart to the condemnations, declarations, and all the prescripts contained in the encyclical Pascendi and in the decree Lamentabili, especially those concerning what is known as the history of dogmas. I also reject the error of those who say that the faith held by the Church can contradict history, and that Catholic dogmas, in the sense in which they are now understood, are irreconcilable with a more realistic view of the origins of the Christian religion. I also condemn and reject the opinion of those who say that a well-educated Christian assumes a dual personality-that of a believer and at the same time of a historian, as if it were permissible for a historian to hold things that contradict the faith of the believer, or to establish premises which, provided there be no direct denial of dogmas, would lead to the conclusion that dogmas are either false or doubtful. Likewise, I reject that method of judging and interpreting Sacred Scripture which, departing from the tradition of the Church, the analogy of faith, and the norms of the Apostolic See, embraces the misrepresentations of the rationalists and with no prudence or restraint adopts textual criticism as the one and supreme norm. Furthermore, I reject the opinion of those who hold that a professor lecturing or writing on a historico-theological subject should first put aside any preconceived opinion about the supernatural origin of Catholic tradition or about the divine promise of help to preserve all revealed truth forever; and that they should then interpret the writings of each of the Fathers solely by scientific principles, excluding all sacred authority, and with the same liberty of judgment that is common in the investigation of all ordinary historical documents.

Finally, I declare that I am completely opposed to the error of the modernists who hold that there is nothing divine in sacred tradition; or what is far worse, say that there is, but in a pantheistic sense, with the result that there would remain nothing but this plain simple fact-one to be put on a par with the ordinary facts of history-the fact, namely, that a group of men by their own labor, skill, and talent have continued through subsequent ages a school begun by Christ and his apostles. I firmly hold, then, and shall hold to my dying breath the belief of the Fathers in the charism of truth, which certainly is, was, and always will be in the succession of the episcopacy from the apostles. The purpose of this is, then, not that dogma may be tailored according to what seems better and more suited to the culture of each age; rather, that the absolute and immutable truth preached by the apostles from the beginning may never be believed to be different, may never be understood in any other way.

I promise that I shall keep all these articles faithfully, entirely, and sincerely, and guard them inviolate, in no way deviating from them in teaching or in any way in word or in writing. Thus I promise, this I swear, so help me God. . .

Wednesday, April 18, 2012


The SSPX recently released a much-ridiculed "response" (receiving more attention probably due to the impending reunion) to a statement released by the USCCB regarding the question of "contraception mandate" for religious hospitals' and schools' insurance programs and how this violates Catholics' religious freedom.

The SSPX document is written in their typical hysterical and paranoiac style. However, as a recent post on Vox Nova points out...they really sort of have a point.

A commenter there recommends an amazing article, all of which is worth reading (and the discussion in the comments is pretty spectacular too!), but concludes with the summary:

The response of American Catholics to the HHS mandate has (perhaps necessarily) been framed in dominantly liberal terms that give it a chance of receiving a hearing in today’s public sphere and within its Courts. But it should be acknowledged (as the response to the 'Compromise' reveals) that the Church will ultimately lose the argument simply due to the fact that the way it is framed already represents a capitulation to liberal premises. Doubtless, an argument that stated more explicitly the Church’s opposition to birth control would be even more quickly dismissed (but, first, caricatured and mocked) than the current invocation of 'religious freedom.' But, the real debate is not over religious freedom, in fact: it is over the very nature of humanity and the way in which we order our polities and societies. Catholicism is one of the few remaining voices of principle and depth that can articulate an forceful and learned alternative to today’s dominant liberal worldview. That it truncates those arguments for the sake of prudential engagement in a contemporary skirmish should not shroud the nature of the deeper conflict. That conflict will continue apace, and Catholics do themselves no favors if they do not understand the true nature of the battle, and the fact that current arguments aid and abet their opponent.
See, if only the SSPX could have phrased things this articulately rather than in their bizarro freak-out self-caricature way...

Because they do have a huge point, as Deneen says: framing things in these terms (which the Church has been doing since Vatican II) is already a capitulation to liberal premises…so they shouldn’t be surprised if people carry those premises to their actual logical conclusions. Deneen (whose article, again, I can't recommend enough) already goes into the whole long history of the privitization of The Good, and the enmity to Catholic Christianity (which does, after all, claim to be catholic) inherent in this approach. But I'd like to point something out, something I myself am just beginning to understand, regarding the effects this has even on the attitudes of orthodox faithful Catholics.

I am coming to see that this cozying-up-to The World and modernity is actually one of the major causes of a fundamentalist outlook among certain “neoconservative Catholic” voices (a different sort of fundamentalism than radical traditionalists themselves espouse): namely, there is this idea that, due to the “splendor of truth”…liberalism (in the 18th-century sense) will actually help the Catholic cause, because then everyone will personally internalize the Faith for himself. Then it won’t just be this sort of tribal conformity, but each individual’s personal choice. And certainly, I guess, that sort of personal choice and internalization is ideal. However, that doesn’t mean the “tribal conformity” model is positively bad either (as long as it is, in fact, conformity to the selfsame faith).

However, this expectation that there could still be universal conformity through personal free choice without the massive State/social pressure that maintained Christendom through that tribal conformity…that it could “coincidentally” wind up with each individual freely personally embracing it “on their own”…is naive. Most people are not going to have faith “on their own.” And even in Christendom, even many of those who did make that ideal personal internalization (among the clerical class, say)…didn’t really do it “on their own,” but as a blossoming of what started as that tribal conformity in childhood.

And so the frustration born of not seeing this expectation play out in practice expresses itself as a sort of vitriol, even rage, at the masses among such fundamentalists, because the narrative becomes something like, “We let you decide on your own, trusting you’d still make the right choice, and you didn’t! So you’re ingrates, and must not be honestly discerning truth for yourself, but rather motivated by pure self-will or hedonism or spiritual sloth or willful obstinance!”

Because the idea for these neocons is something like the trope of giving someone a “choice” and then throwing a tantrum when they don’t make the choice you want. The paradoxical notion that everyone must choose freely in favor of Catholicism (or some other ideology)…winds up ironically with a sort of 1984 totalitarianism-style attitude where they don’t merely want to force you do something, but want to paradoxically "force you to do it freely." They want to extract a voluntarist submission. “And you’re gonna LIKE it too!” is the idea.

But of course, this leads to a greater hatred against the other who, without coercion, doesn’t make the right choice (because many won't without the massive social support structure, because, really, our choices always take place in a social/relational context). To solve this, really, you need to either sacrifice the individualist notion of “freedom” that is the basis of pluralist society, or sacrifice the idea that anyone “has to” do anything, that there is any “ought.” Trying to have them both just winds up in a contradiction that is this neoconservative form of fundamentalism, wanting people to freely embrace and then feeling antagonistic when they don't validate your own beliefs that way.

Of course, the same basic contradiction ends up playing out in the ideology which is Secularism. The idea that without any particular notion of the Good enforced, everyone will be able to have their own notion "privately," winds up with the positive expectation or implication that everyone will accept this "void" itself as, essentially, the public Good (really more a sort of Anti-Good).

And the fact that some people's private notions of the Good, in this system, still make totalizing or exclusivist or universalizing claims, and still conceive of themselves as (at least rightfully) the Good that should be public (or, at least, also personally embraced by everyone else) the so-called "paradox of tolerance" and leads inevitably to attempts by the supposed neutral Secularists to neuter these alternate claims (thus destroying their claim to neutrality).

No, trying to fit any sort of orthodoxy into these basic modern assumptions of liberalism or pluralism...just isn't going to work, and you end up playing to the lowest common denominator. Catholics need to simply stop pandering to that, as the compromise has ended up with us shooting ourselves in the foot. But the question of a solution is not so simple. The fundamentalism that throws a tantrum when people don't make the free choice you want is not the answer. Yet I don't think a reactionary fortress or "remnant" posture ala the Lefebvrists is any good either, as that's also a sort of fundamentalism (if of a less subtle sort) and is also entirely ineffective and naive (as the Deneen quote says, such an approach, "would be even more quickly dismissed but, first, caricatured and mocked.")

However, a new Christendom cannot be created over night, nor do I think it is a good idea to actively force it on society coercively; such fascism is not equivalent to a social pressure that develops organically and which one is born into. But neither should those of us who are "aware" and have personally chosen and internalized the faith drop our orthodoxy or its ultimately universalizing claims/expectations.

The question, then, of what our institutional approach or attitude should be, how to behave with both principle and prudent pragmatism, becomes a very tricky one. As I discussed at the end of another post, I like the suggestion that in our situation we should model ourselves on the prophetic penance enjoined on the chosen people in exile, maintaining our own purity and faithfulness (and even still trying to spread that Gospel on a heart-to-heart level individually) while nevertheless changing our rhetoric so that we fundamentally blame ourselves, rather than the Other, for our marginalization and the sinfulness and faithlessness of the world, the silence of God.

Really, radical love and humility like this can be the only answer. But what this would or could look like (or how it could be better achieved) in terms of specific reforms of institutional structure or "political" approach or pastoral style...I am somewhat less certain. But maybe that doesn't matter. I have a good enough idea of what it would look like for the individual (namely, holiness) and perhaps we don't need a whole vision or platform or plan for the whole outside of that, perhaps "the community" only starts to emerge from enough individuals.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Public/Private, Internal vs External Forum, Confession, Penance, and Excommunication

Recently the Catholic blogosphere was once again set on fire with talk about denying communion to public sinners.

I have my own problems with talk of "public sinners” (technically "manifest and obstinate") if only because it seems to create a two-tiered system of sinners and to imply that it is somehow better to keep our sins swept under the rug and keep up appearances in order to “avoid scandal” somehow (although I don’t see why merely knowing that random people sin would cause anyone else to sin; why should we be taking them as our example?) As I've also written about before, in the case of cohabitation it also often seems to involve some weird and unwarranted assumptions about the nature of people’s relationships, as if sharing a house means you’re sexually active, or more “obviously” so than people nowadays who are dating but live separately (Puh-leeze.)

Really, it seems like a lot of this is the "good Catholics" (who are all sinners too, many often mortally so, and mortally so against the same virtues, just in different ways) trying to set up an "us/them" Pharisaical notion, wanting to create a "pure" Church by scapegoating certain people, creating an "internal enemy" to go against and be punished and excluded as a way of defining the righteous remnant.

Of course, the assumption is that when someone lives unapologetically openly in an immoral situation, they must also be heretics who reject the Church's teaching on its wrongness. And maybe this is true, but maybe it isn't; I don't think anyone in the medieval world assumed prostitutes thought prostitution wasn't a sin.

Either way, I think, currently there is a mismatch in canon law. Certain sins carry an “automatic excommunication.” Some of these make sense, like heresy. Others, however, are used apparently just to emphasize the gravity of a sin in a world that questions it, like that for abortion. On the other hand there is also the canon regarding denying communion to “manifest and obstinate” public sinners.

I think it is not correct to have these be two separate categories. It seems absurd to me to call some people “excommunicated” (allegedly “automatically”) whose sins are not known publicly, or at least who do not meet the canonical standards for “manifest and obstinate,” and so who are not denied communion publicly. But then to have other people denied communion publicly who are “not” in fact “excommunicated” (automatically or otherwise)!

This seems a ridiculous situation to me because all “excommunicated” is supposed to mean (or originally meant) was that someone was denied communion publicly. Having classes of “excommunicated” people, like in abortions, whose sin is secret and so who are aren’t publicly denied it (even if they are supposed to deny themselves privately, like anyone in mortal sin) but then having classes of people publicly denied communion who are technically not “excommunicated”…doesn’t make any sense!!

Instead, I say, collapse the two concepts. Make excommunication apply to sinners who are manifest and obstinate, who are “public,” and get rid of the distinction between the two categories. No longer apply excommunication to secret sins, or deny communion to people who are not excommunicated.

And perhaps there should be no more "automatic" excommunication, period, because maybe that doesn't even make any sense given the public external-forum nature of excommunication. Perhaps excommunication should be considered in effect only when there is a public determination through some juridical process (even if a simple one left to the pastor on the parish level). And perhaps this would stop priests from setting themselves up as arbitrary judges of who should be denied and who shouldn't in spur-of-the-moment at-the-altar decisions.

Still, if there is to be some distinction between the internal forum and the external forum, I say we need to make that line more concrete, then. Keep private confession for private sins, and give absolution for the personl sin aspect. However, if any of the sins confessed are “public,” are of the variety that carry a denial of communion/excommunication then there would be a separate step: confession before the community to the bishop, solemn public penance, culminating in public reconciliation. In other words, separate the private absolution of the personal sin (an internal forum matter to be handled privately, under the seal) from the lifting of the public canonical censure (a matter of the external forum, to be celebrated publicly). This I think would help balance the internal forum/external forum question in confession better and be closer to the practice of the early Church.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

One Stupid Thing About Latin...

Ecclesiastical Latin, at least, is the way the weekdays are just named "Feria II," "Feria III," etc.

There's something so cold seeming about that to me. Sabbato for Saturday and Dominica for Sunday are better, of course. And I suppose importing the names of pagan gods (even if just referencing "planets") would be a little weird too, especially since Saturn's Day already is the Sabbath, and the Sun's Day is already the Lord's, so (even though several Romance languages do this anyway) you'd get an "incomplete set" if you just renamed the other five days that way (not to mention that some people would point out that the "classical planets" don't include Uranus or Neptune...)

So I don't really know what sort of solution to offer here. But I will say this is one place where English takes the cake, by far. "Good Friday" is so much more evocative than "Feria VI in Parasceve" (sort of redundant given that "parasceve," day of preparation, came to mean "Friday" among the Jews anyway) and "Ash Wednesday" so much more poetic and organic feeling than "Feria IV in Cinera."

I guess it's just the inclusion of numerals that makes it seem this way to me. If you translated "Feria VI" as "Sixthsday" or something, I suppose I could see that as being more organic or poetic, but as it stands "Weekday 6 in Preparation" is rather perfunctory.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Faith and Morals, Truth and Values, Intellect and Will, Is and Ought

It struck me as rather absurd today that some people claiming to be Catholics or Christians can accept the Resurrection but then claim they can't see their way to accepting some of the Church's moral teachings. To me this just seemed ridiculous; if you can believe a man rose from the dead(!) and preformed a variety of miracles and at the end flew up into the that point, you can surely believe anything, so can it really be that hard to accept the rather mundane and non-supernatural proposition that contraceptive sex is wrong?

Dissenters just seem a little absurd here. If you are going to adopt a sort of raw naturalist pragmatism, fine, but then don't believe in miracles either! The world can't be enchanted as regards "is" but disenchanted as regards "ought."

Ah, but, I realized, that's just the thing: we're talking about two different classes of proposition here. This is perhaps why the Church speaks of "Faith and Morals" as two separate things (though both covered by Her infallibility).

The sorts of dogmatic claims in the first category refer to "Truths" regarding a historical event or even something like the nature of Christ or the Trinity or the Real Presence in the Eucharist. These are intellectual propositions, truth claims regarding some "is" (or was) in the World, although the Will ultimately is what moves the Intellect to assent to them.

But since they are rather beautiful ideas (note: a value judgment), and have a narrative drama to them, the Will is not so resistant to accepting such things in many (although there is a type, of course, increasingly common: the hard skeptic or materialist, who thinks all such non-falsifiable claims are superstition or even cognitively meaningless; he, I think, does not understand the relationship between Thought and Reality.)

However, the second category of "morals," is no longer proclaiming Truths, but rather Values. These are not propositions (not directly at least) about how things are, but propositions about how things should be; they are statements of ought rather than is (and even when rooted in an "is" claim about human nature and happiness, the very idea of a "nature" or "happiness" is itself, actually, ultimately a value judgment or definition).

These, it seems, people are much more resistant to accepting, especially without a rather large force of social coercion to do so. But this only makes sense given Christian Anthropology and our notion of the Fall. Being value judgments (albeit absolute ones) rather than truth claims, they would ultimately be more primarily seated in the orientation of the Will (towards a certain notion of the good) rather than in the assent of the intellect, even though (in a process opposite that of truth claims, where the Will is what moves the Intellect to assent) it is Reason which is supposed to order the Will in these cases.

But, of course, fallen man has fallen concupiscence, and the very problem is that the Will rebels against Reason, is not docile, will not obey even divinely constituted Authority. It is rather easy to make the Intellect submit to the Will. It is harder to ask that Will submit to Reason, exactly because the intellect is not really the active "agent" force (as it is the Will to which we attribute agency! Only the Will could be the one doing the "asking" in the first place.) The higher appetite is supposed to orient us towards the real good, but many people are blinded by sin, blinded by their own selfishness.

For dogmatic truths (is-claims), some people might say they are "not convinced" intellectually, but few would say they simply don't want to believe these things except inasmuch as the ideas do not yet appear beautiful enough to overwhelm whatever competing ideas or intellectual values are competing for the Will's assent. This is rather easier a problem for apologists to "solve" as it would involve only building-up these ideas in the intellect enough (which is susceptible to external guidance or influence) until they do.

However, for moral claims (ought-statements), the very difference from is-claims I explicated above means that "not convinced" is rather a red herring here, whatever else people say. The reality is, because submission to value judgments ultimately rests in the Will, in an attitude or orientation regarding the nature of the Good, the desirable, it's very possible that no amount of intellectual persuasion or demonstration of the reasonability of a moral claim will ever be useful in getting people to accept it (and so, for moral claims, "not convinced" amounts to merely a self-justifying excuse.) A moral claim is a value judgment, not an "is" statement, and as such "intellectually convinced" doesn't even really make sense as a category for judging it. You can present evidence for an "is," but you can't really do so for an "ought." For an ought, you can only try to evoke love and joy.

No, when it comes to moral outlook, people are either moved by grace, moved by the implications of the truth "is" claims to a new vision or outlook of the good or "ought" (that starts with humble obedience to the Church)...or they aren't, likely because of being blinded by their own self-will, blinded by sin which in this way darkens the intellect (by establishing the Will in a habit of being bent towards other goods).

And so you wind up with many absurd people who apparently can believe a man walked on water and turned water to wine and rose from a tomb...but who, pathetically weak-willed, just can't make the leap to embracing the Good that He is in its fulness. So they'll know Him, and yet they will not truly love Him; rather they'll "go away sad" because He said to sell it all and "they have very much," or they will keep their distance as if anything but total surrender is acceptable to Him, or they'll worship an idol in their head that merely looks the same as Him (but which does not make the same demands on them that the real Him, mediated by the community, by the Church, does.)

If belief in the Resurrection does not lead to us transforming our notion of the good in humble obedience, if it remains a beautiful "is" that, nevertheless, does not get the total and absolute submission of our "ought"...then it is utterly useless in terms of our salvation. For even the devils believe and tremble, but yet they will not serve.

Friday, April 6, 2012

We Can Only Think "Inside The Box"

The following is adapted from some things I wrote for a lengthy email exchange I am having with someone regarding Catholic teaching, the notion of the "Natural Law," etc. It crystallizes a lot of things I've been thinking, lately, about how useful (or, rather, not useful) these sorts of apologetic arguments or debates really are in the end.

Sometimes arguments about issues get frustrating, because at a certain point it often seems to get confused about whether we are even arguing about a teaching objectively and absolutely speaking, or whether (in order to defend against charges of internal inconsistency used to "disprove" a teaching) I am just trying to defend the internal consistency of a point, knowing that internal consistency alone does not "prove" the truth of any theorem in the absolute sense because we are still basing it on certain premises and axioms.

Often such debates seem to become just people talking past each other because the two sides are, in fact, revealing different basic premises or assumptions, different "logics," and then going forward to prove the internal consistency of a position from there. However, to the other side, who doesn't even accept those axioms in the first place necessarily, this can feel like trying to prove the premises using their own conclusions (which would be specious and begging the question).

The truth is, very often in my debates or apologetics, I am merely establishing the internal consistency of the system's logic once the premises are accepted.

You see, what annoys me most about discussing these things with many people is not, actually, that they disagree. I understand that people disagree, and that at a certain point there is no "arguing with" them because at the end of the day axioms are, well, axiomatic...and it takes a certain leap of (at least natural) faith in any moral system (or epistemology generally!) to accept the basic premises.

For example, I'm coming to see that the "Catholic Natural Law" is definitely still very much Catholic. It's "natural" in the sense that it reaches conclusions from premises that are not of necessity supernaturally Revealed ideas (though Revelation confirms them). But those premises still have to be naturally accepted, and not everyone does. At the end of the day a syllogism can't prove the very axioms it is based on, and which axioms you accept really will depend on a notion of knowledge that ultimately will come from accepting or associating with a community of understanding (and without this, one ends up in perpetual skepticism or trying to synthesize an epistemology a priori in some Cartesian fashion).

There are some general arguments or appeals to certain human concepts that can attempt to get people to see their fittingness, but these tend to hardly be "universal." I had this thought while looking at a poster on the subway recently that has a picture of a puppy and a piglet and says, "Why love one but eat the other?" from some vegetarian group. Of course, someone like me will simply answer "Because dog meat is stringy and largely unavailable here, but I wouldn't be opposed to trying it in a country whose culture does eat dog." But the poster isn't meant to appeal to people like me (who have no ultimate aversion to eating dog.) The poster's "argument" is not some grand philosophical attempt to make a rational logical case against the eating of animals. Rather, what it does is appeal to the sentiments of those people who already are animal lovers, who treat their pets as practically people, as "part of the family" (we all know the type)...and then attempts to get them to generalize from this pre-existing "moral" instinct (which has perhaps never considered the "why" of itself or the implications of its own unexamined logic) then onto all animals.

In reality, we cannot just assume all people hold our basic premises and argue from there (however consistently). Rather, getting people to even accept your premises in the first place must be a matter of appealing to their pre-logical values or moral instincts (which will be different for different people or groups of people!) and working from there, in dialogue with their experiences, to show how these values actually do resonate with our notion of the Good within the community of the Church. So the vegetarian posters appeal to pet-lovers' love of animals to make their point for them. But for me, perhaps, they would have to tailor an argument regarding personhood based around something more scholastic, more analytic (because that is my fundamental "language" of conviction.)

This is part of my frustration regarding the Church's current "culture wars" pastoral approach which seems to believe that we can "impose" the Natural Law on non-Catholics just because it doesn't come from Revelation, just because its premises are not supernatural. Yet it still comes from premises, still comes from natural axioms that are axioms, and thus have to be accepted "unproven" in some sense. It was in this context that I said something like, "If the Church is worried about someone attending a Unitarian Gay Wedding primarily because it's Gay rather than because it's Unitarian...I'm not sure they have their priorities straight!"

So what annoys me in some discussions is not disagreement. Rather, I do get a little pissed when people try to argue against my/the Church's official beliefs with the idea that they are somehow internally inconsistent. Because this just isn't true. I think people can disagree with the premises all they want, and civilly explain why they don't find the premises fitting or whatever, and we can have an experiential encounter about that (and I have faith that, with enough love and patience and grace, the Catholic notion of the Good would eventually emerge and come to be appealing in such a "cor ad cor loquitur" dialogue.)

But to try to impose the logic implied by their premises internally onto my system, which is based on different premises...that gets me a bit fed up. People can say they question the premises, but it makes me a little bit mad when they try to argue against the teachings through some attempt to prove internal inconsistency (such as by bringing up infertile couples or NFP in regards to the teachings on sexual morality). These things are actually perfectly consistent relative to the internal logic of the system. Question that system as a whole, fine, but at least admit it is internally consistent.

But, obviously, other people may have different axioms or different internal "rules" of moral logic, and at a certain point there is little one can do except to respect the other's opinion as at least internally consistent, but agree to disagree about the founding axioms and logical premises. We Catholics have to remember this too, as we are guilty of it at least as often as we are the victims of it.

However, I would say that, for dissenting Catholics, trying to salvage an identification with the Church or Catholicism, with certain parts of the dogmatic system, while subjecting certain other conclusions of that system to a logic and premises which are foreign to it in a manner that results in rejecting some of, to me, rather a strange exercise. In fact, from the perspective of those of us who do hold to the premises of its own holistic inner logic (the logic that renders the system internally consistent and which leads to not rejecting any of it) is even sort of an offensive and frankensteinish "appropriation" of (parts of) the Faith which we hold dear, a cultural appropriation of symbol without substance, of dogmas and rituals without committing to or internalizing the values they represent (like some Westerner fetishizing the externals of some foreign culture in a shallow "fanboy" sort of way).

Starting with some logic or premises external to the faith system and then subjecting the faith to its scrutiny (and then only keeping what fits) is a rather odd idea to someone like me whose paradigm is to accept (as and by Faith) the logic internal to the system itself and subject all other systems to that (rather than the other way around). It especially starts to look suspicious when the conclusions one reaches are those that conveniently seem to allow living the sort of life one harbors an affection for living.

Of course, what many dissenting Catholics then try to do is claim that the logic they are subjecting Church teaching to the scrutiny of really is, in fact, the Catholic logic, or internal to the system itself. But I just have to look at that and say, "Hmm. There's a logic and premises that lead to all the official conclusions, and then there's various other sets of logics and premises that lead to rejecting some of them" and to conclude, by Occam's razor, that the former and not the latter is obviously the logic and premises most naturally internal to the system (because it reconciles everything).

And I think this goes along with what I was saying earlier about subjecting the Church's system to a logic or premises external to it. I find that invalid. To me, the Church has a system of propositions, and there is at least one logic that renders that system internally consistent. Whether that logic has been imposed on the system "after the fact" or not "as a rationalization" simply irrelevant to me, because the logic was never supposed to be the "source" of the validity of the propositions in the first place (especially not as regards Revealed truths, but even to some degree this also applies to natural propositions as well); it was merely meant to show that the propositions do not, in fact, contradict themselves intrinsically. That's all theology ever is, it's not supposed to "generate" or "derive" any "new" truths, merely establish the internal consistency of the old ones.

But the axioms themselves (even the "natural" ones) take a leap of faith, take a choice to identify with the community of those who accept them, and this probably requires encountering people experientially, not argumentatively.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Way to Spin It, Secular Media!

Given that I don't like the "us/them" culture wars model of Catholic identity, I usually I try to keep my critiques "within the fold," because we need to take the log out of our institutional eye first.

But sometimes the media's ignorance of Catholicism is annoying, and sometimes their spin in headlines in order to be sensationalistic is just egregious.

Consider these two headlines today: "Pope denounces priests seeking to abolish celibacy" and "Pope denounces dissident priests on celibacy." There were a lot of others in this vein.

Of course, this is an incredibly skewed take on what actually happened, and one designed to tap into an image of the Pope as this big bad authoritarian seeking to crack down on the legitimate aspirations of those seeking a married secular priesthood, something that even many totally orthodox and faithful Catholics (including myself) support.

In reality, of course, the Pope was responding to a group that called not only for an end to mandatory celibacy (which I don't think the Vatican could do anything about if they kept things civil and otherwise orthodox) but also for woman priests and who have explicitly called for disobedience in the form of "celebrating Mass" without priests. And of course, they aren't even seeking to "abolish celibacy" (whatever that would mean), they're just seeking to not have it be mandatory for diocesan priests.

This isn't about denouncing those who would seek to allow married men to be priests by legitimate discussion and obedient advocacy for change. It's about calling out disobedient dissident heretic agitators. But the headlines are bound to leave the public utterly confused about this extremely valid distinction. And that does get on my nerves.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

In Praise of the Catholics

I've admitted before my sympathies for the Orthodox.

Many Catholics I know, of the general "Renegade Trads" persuasion (that is to say, of people sympathetic with traditionalism, but who aren't fundamentalists) also have such sympathies.

But where do they come from? I think part of it is a correctionist impulse against the excesses of unbalanced Western emphases; the Church would be more balanced "breathing with both lungs."

The Orthodox certainly are traditional liturgically, and yet their accommodation to things like the vernacular means they have not suffered the same decay into vestigiality the Roman Rite did (before entirely collapsing after Vatican II). They are smaller, and so can have a more vibrant community life that the big-box Roman parishes of thousands simply cannot. Their more pragmatic model of a married secular priesthood also is invaluable in facilitating this, and is one of the biggest draws of the Orthodox model for me. And their ecclesiology is, of course, much less hyper-centralized and more consensus-based and collegial than authoritarian.

However, I also think, in all this...there is a certain degree of pure exoticism in the appeal, and a sort of romanticizing of primitivism, for the Latins who "sympathize" with Orthodoxy. Sympathy is one thing, but it can only go so far.

In truth, Western sympathizing with the Orthodox often seems to come from a quest to find the "purest" Apostolic Christianity, to find the one that is preserved in the earliest possible vintage, that represents the most ancient snapshot of the Faith, and thus, it is assumed, must give us some idea of what is truly essential and native to the Church, and what is a later accretion (or even corruption).

However, I've been thinking this logic actually makes no sense. A "snapshot" or "preservation" implies something that has basically become frozen as a museum piece, cut-off from further growth in an anachronistic stasis. Indeed, this sort of primitivist logic often leads people who first sympathize with Eastern Orthodoxy to later progress (or regress) "even farther back" to Oriental Orthodoxy (the "monophysites") and finally to the ("Nestorian") Assyrian Church of the East. Going from accepting 21 councils, to accepting 7, to accepting 3, to accepting 2. (There's just an assumption here that Protestantism is an ahistorical anomaly, and is not truly Apostolic Christianity, though some will wink at the Anglicans.)

But is this really what we want? Do we want a Church which "stopped" after 2 councils, or 3, or 7? Wouldn't we rather have a Church which goes back as far as these but which has never "stopped" at any point, which is still having councils, still evolving, still reforming, etc?

Yes, there may be a primitivist, conservationist, "traditionalist" appeal to the other...but when I look at Orthodoxy compared to everything (good and bad) that Catholicism is, I can only think that, for all its merits and holiness, Orthodoxy simply does not seem to have the same sweeping historical vision, the same adaptability, the same catholicity as the Catholic Church. Forgetting even ethnophyletic tendencies, I just simply do not see the Orthodox churches as having been the same sort of constant and major player in the narrative of world history that Catholicism has been. (Maybe if Russia had won the Cold War...)

No, there are times when I get so fed up with Catholic antics that I look longingly at the "purer" Orthodox, but then when I look at the big "story" of history...I can only see the Catholic Church as truly expansive, truly universal in its outlook, and "there" at all the important moments of history, taking to herself all that is good from every age; the truly humanistic institution.

Monday, April 2, 2012

More on Christianity, Modern Nihilism, Existential Leaps, Faith, and Suicide

That title is sufficiently descriptive.

This post is a continuation of one from a few days ago, as perhaps I have now gained greater clarity, or at least a more concrete resolve or vision, from those thoughts.

In my last post, I mused that if Christianity necessarily leads to nihilism in the modern subject (something I think the most honest of us can attest to at our darkest moments), then it is cowardly to try to deny it through concluding that we must have made a "wrong turn" or that Christianity must be adapted or "evolved" in order to "un-nihil-ize" it in the face of the modern godless void of secularism. At least when the "adaptation" takes the form of abandoning orthodoxy or traditional morality (usually people are thinking the sexual); pastoral approach is a different question.

No, if Christianity becomes nihilism in the modern context, we must lucidly accept that and everything that it implies. The answer, in that case, is not to change or adapt, but rather to go down nobly and bravely with the ship.

As a young contrarian teenager, I was once arguing with my secular humanist father against the godlessness of modern democracy by saying something like, "But it's clearly unsustainable, it will collapse in its own decadence, by its own lack of God!" and he said something like, "Ah, but if it makes or has made hundreds of millions of lives free and happy in the meantime, who cares if it eventually collapses, even by its own inner logic? Would we fault the Roman Empire's contributions to humanity or advancing civilization just because it only lasted a while and then became corrupted by its own success and at last collapsed? No, nothing lasts forever, even we are only born to die."

At the time I did not appreciate the wisdom of this, and saw it as purely near-atheistic drivel. What I did not understand, at the time, was that Christendom likewise contained modernity, so if I'm going to fault democracy for decadence by its own inner logic, I have to take it back a step and fault Christianity too. This other half of the logic has been shown to me recently, and we should not be surprised; indeed, as I've said a few times before, Christianity always predicted the General Apostasy and rise of Antichrist. The Christ-event contains Antichrist by its own inner logic. That is how things must unfold.

There is an arcsis and thesis in life, great arcs that ideas take in their trajectory. And yes, in some sense, they all crash and burn in the end. Like a rocket, their highest point is always the beginning of their decline, by the very logic of gravity. And yet, it is the high point we seek, and we don't stop launching rockets higher and higher just because they all crash in the end, and nor do we conclude that we've failed because of it. No one would say we must idealize old age or death just because it is the natural outcome of the inner logic of youth. We must accept them tranquilly, but only as we also "rage, rage against the dying of the light."

Christians (at least in the modern or even now post-modern West) must accept that Christendom had its day, and that history has now naturally unfolded into the modern world, and we must be sadder but wiser for it. However, just as the patriotic Roman under the most corrupt emperors at the end of the empire held to the ideals of the Republic (or, perhaps, the golden age under Augustus, etc), and just as someone like my father, even given the monstrous infanticidal capitalist dystopia of godlessness it has become, still holds to his liberal ideals (of liberty, equality, fraternity) in their brief golden youth of Jeffersonian or Jacksonian too, the Christian cannot abandon our ideals, our logic, just because they have necessarily played-out into the hedonistic baby-murdering godless void of the modern.

No, Christendom must still be kept alive in our hearts. Just because youth led to the ravages of age by natural progression, doesn't mean we look back bitterly and conclude that youth was wrong, or that we should not idealize it, or that we should "go gently into that dark night." No, in fact, the only correct thing to do is to hold to the ideal and fight for it even in "the long defeat," even after it's day is past, is to refuse to abandon the glory of the acme, even as the rocket begins its long descent.

There must be no changing of trajectory, no regrets, no thought of abandoning or revising the original logic just because, pushed to "old age," it ends up self-defeating. Indeed, that is how life itself works; it ends in death, and yet things go on living until their dying day, they do not conclude in old age, "Well, a love of life was clearly misguided because it led to death, therefore we must revise our ideals cynically to conform to this conclusion."

And this, I think, brings me back, perhaps ironically, to my point about the modern Christian, and nihilism, and suicide. It is naive and bad faith fundamentalism for Christians to put on rose-colored glasses and pretend that Christendom is still here. This is like an old man who is not merely a "child at heart," but who truly pretends, pathetically, like so many Baby Boomer celebrities, that he really is still a youth and so acts with the irresponsibility of such. Such a person has the worst of both worlds; the decay of age and the immaturity of youth. So too, Christians who pretend we are still in Christendom have all of the triumphalism but none of the actual social expansiveness, and so wind up a sectarian ghetto of paranoia.

However, those who would cynically conclude that, because Christianity has led to the modern situation, we must therefore "reconcile" Christianity to it...are cowards, and bound to be disappointed in their efforts anyway. These people think, like the generation of Vatican II, that if only we "update" Christianity to make it more relevant (like, by dropping some of those pesky moral teachings) that we can conform it to The World and it will somehow survive.

Of course, what these people end up finding is that while they or their generation may have felt some need to "salvage" Christianity out of sentimental attachment (or sense of indebtedness) and bring it into the very frankenstein modern world it birthed...the next generation (my generation) simply sees no need for that, as the post-Christian world has already appropriated what it needs from actual Christianity, and so sees no need to maintain the previous evolutionary stage, and will discard it outright as so much "scaffolding," seeing attempts to make it "relevant" as phony and impotent and pathetic as when the older Elvis tried to re-brand himself on the model of the later rock musicians who were, in fact, already his artistic descendents, whose own advent "stood on his giant-shoulders" but also signaled his obsolescence or being-surpassed. Giants who try to stand on their own shoulders just wind up falling down like fools, their legs twisted around their necks.

What then can we do? I think, now, the answer is that if the inner logic of Christianity leads to nihilism, we can only "stay the course" and hold to the ideals of Christendom "to the bitter end" even if it means our own self-destruction. We cannot abandon them, certainly, as if once the climax is reached, we can then escape the descent by "bailing" or selling out. As if somehow we can have the revelry without the hangover, the symbolism without the substance. This would be cowardice. No, authenticity demands that we follow our logic doggedly even when that logic leads off a cliff.

This, perhaps, is real faith. Abraham's absolute obedience to God wound up leading, seemingly, to the absurd conclusion that he should slay his own son (whose conception was the whole point of his obedience to God in the first place!) Abraham was prepared to slay Isaac nonetheless. If one is committed to ones values, then integrity and authenticity demand following them even to their absurd conclusions, even to their own self-defeating destruction.

Likewise, I can say that I do not regret the self that I have created in my life. I have made many mistakes and sinned very often, but the fundamental "orientation" I have chosen for my life is absolutely something I am dedicated to and do not regret. I am convinced it is correct. And if, at some point, the playing out of the inner logic of that self-hood seems to be incompatible with life in this world, seems to be leading right off that cliff, then it would be cowardice (and, indeed, impossible to accomplish with any sort of self-respect) to "turn around" or revise my values or alter the logic in order to not face the consequences of those values.

No, we must become what we have made of ourselves, and if we are committed to our values, if I am convinced they are correct, then I must follow them even into absurdity. If holding to traditional Christianity in the modern world seemingly leads to nihilism, and thus suicide, then it really is a martyrdom for the Christian to hold strong to those values nonetheless and follow them with eyes wide open into that suicide.

And, perhaps, we will learn, like Abraham...that God stays our hand at the last moment, and rewards the obedience. Perhaps, though the "track" seems to be leading off the cliff (when viewed from a distance), we will find that it surprisingly "turns" at the last minute (but we are only able to learn this if we abandon ourselves to the "point of no return," where we would no longer be able to "stop the train" even if the track doesn't turn). Perhaps, if we follow the logic right off the cliff in sheer blind trust and abandon, we will find that there is actually a "glass bridge" or that the height of the cliff is an illusion or that there is a net to catch us and that the logic in fact continues on to somewhere wonderful after that.

But we can never know if we pull back or abandon our dogged pursuit of the logic of the ideal before that, if we "blink" in fear. Maybe it will all work out, and God will stay the hand of Abraham as it is about to stab. And if not, then at least we stood by our values with authenticity, even to the absurd end, and if there's no miracle waiting on the other side, then life probably wouldn't have been worth living in the first place.

If we come to the realization that Christianity is at a "change or die" juncture in either the world, or in ourselves, that these are the only alternatives to a fundamentalism that sustains itself by refusing to see its own logic all the way to its final conclusions...then this still doesn't mean we must change. Rather, it means we must go down with the ship; we should choose to die.