The occasional, often ill-considered thoughts of a Roman Catholic permanent deacon who is ever grateful to God for his existence. Despite the strangeness we encounter in this life, all the suffering we witness and endure, being is good, so good I am sometimes unable to contain my joy. Deo gratias!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

The Future of the Church in America

A few days ago I offered my personal reflection on the meaning of the recent elections. In doing so I made no specific predictions, other than suggesting that these elections portend the imminent collapse of Western Civilization. I suppose some might think that's a pretty dire prediction, although such suggestions are nothing new. People have been predicting this for decades. With Christendom gone, the civilization it founded will necessarily decline, to be replaced by something else. I won't even try to predict what that "something else" might be, except to say it will attempt to exert power over all things. In this, of course, it will fail because the power of God's love ultimately overcomes everything.

I'm reminded of something Malcolm Muggeridge wrote over 30 years ago [The End of Christendom, 1980] about an interview he conducted with Alexander Solzhenitsyn. He paraphrases Solzhenitsyn as saying:

"...if in this world you are confronted with absolute power, power unmitigated, unrestrained, extending to every area of human life -- if you are confronted with power in those terms, you are driven to realize that the only possible response to it is not some alternative power arrangement, more humane, more enlightened. The only possible response to absolute power is the absolute love which our Lord brought into the world."
Most Americans have yet to experience the kind of absolute, worldly power of which Solzhenitsyn speaks, the sort of power that confronted those who lived in Hitler's Third Reich, in Stalin's Soviet Union, or in Mao's China. And we naively assume we will never be the objects of those who wield such power. This, after all, is America. To a certain extent those who believe this are probably correct. I also do not expect our nation to turn into the typical 20th-Century fascist or communist state. No, those who wield power here are far too sophisticated, too progressive to follow the failed paths of the past. Instead, as Solzhenitsyn suggests, they will enforce power through a "more humane, more enlightened" sort of society, one in which all of life is controlled for our own good, as those goods are defined by those who hold the reins of power.

How long this transition will take is anyone's guess, but I expect it will not take long. And when it finally occurs, perhaps then, in the midst of this kinder, softer totalitarian oppression, those who have seemingly welcomed this change will begin to question. Perhaps then, as they experience the subtle but relentless attack on their very humanity, they will come to an understanding of what is happening to them. Perhaps then, as they search for answers, they will open their hearts to the only alternative: the power of God's love. And when they do this the Church will still be there to lead them to the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

Although this little blog of mine doesn't generate many comments, (I'm pretty sure one has to have readers to get comments), I do receive occasional emails from friends and acquaintances who either agree or take issue with what I've posted. And I always appreciate both. But as a result of my last post, I received quite a few emails complaining about what they perceived to be a sense of despair in what I wrote. The only thing I can say in response is that I am never without hope when it comes to the "permanent things." If claiming that our civilization will ultimately collapse is to despair, I plead guilty. I am not at all optimistic when it comes to worldly hope and change. But then I don't consider our human, worldly civilizations to be all that important when measured alongside the salvation of souls, something of eternal importance. And although I love my country, I realize that it too is of human origin and necessarily doomed to turn to dust.

I do not, however, despair when it comes to the Church -- One, Holy, Catholic, Apostolic -- since our Lord, Jesus Christ, promised to remain with us until the end of time. Will the Church in tomorrow's America have a different role than it has today? Not really; but how it must carry out that role will be very different.

This morning I read a most interesting essay ["What the Election Means"] by Fr. Philip de Vous, a Catholic priest and pastor in Kentucky. Fr. de Vous offers his thoughts on the election and what it will mean for the Church and for religious liberty in the near term. It is well worth reading.

God's peace...

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