The West is entrenched in what the philosopher and psychologist John Vervaeke has called a “meaning-crisis”; whilst the institutional Church has entered an authority-crisis. I submit that the Church’s reclaiming of its mission is the only way out of the meaning-crisis of the West—a crisis that the West has successfully exported to almost every part of the globe—and at present the Church remains utterly unfit to take up this mission.
Can Hermetic Magic Rescue the Church? Part I: Acknowledging the Crisis and Breaking the Spell, by Sebastian Morello (as referenced in a Paul VanderKlay video here).
Amen. A paragraph I have written, in less efficient and effective ways, many times. There is only one way out of the meaning crisis (and, inherently, to move back toward liberty) in the West, and that is for the Church, and for Christians, to stand up. Instead, as Morello will offer, the Church has failed and is failing at just the time when it is needed most.
When I say this, I predominantly have in mind the Catholic Church (being, as I am, a Roman Catholic).
But the shortcomings are not limited to the Catholic Church:
The ugly internal power games, moral relativising, and neo-caesaropapism of Orthodox senior clerics, however, have hugely undermined the authority of their offices, and it’s not even worth remarking on the state of the Anglican Communion and the various Protestant sects.
The corruption I have seen in the Orthodox Church I occasionally attend is no different than the corruption in broader society – power over truth and justice. As for many protestants churches, the worship of militarization and the fifty-first state contribute to a loss of credibility. Further, flying the flag of the enemies of Christ is a visible sign of how lost many congregations are.
The fact is, all the baptised are in the same boat when it comes to the current crisis: the institution that the Incarnate Word established on earth to lead “all nations” to “all truth” has lost its authority (Mt 28:19, Jn 16:13).
The hierarchy of the Church has almost entirely lost authority in the eyes of the rest of the faithful.
This is because in most cases and for most topics, the Church hierarchy says nothing different than does the culture around it – just not as effectively and not nearly as entertaining. In other words, why should anyone pay attention?
The progressives never believed that the law of the Church, the dogmas of the Faith, or the moral law had any claim on their intellect or conscience in any case, beyond what they individually chose to accept.
This is no different than the progressives in larger society. No norms, no culture, no tradition, no objective values, no natural law.
The trads always believed they were bound by such things, but see now that something’s happened to the Church’s government that makes it no longer trustworthy, and thus they look sideways at anything coming out of Rome.
Also the same thing that is happening in larger society. “What happened to the rules?” the “traditional” conservatives ask. The ruling progressives are hypocrites. Etc., etc., etc.
A few years ago, I challenged a bishop over what I judged to be his breaking of employment law and violation of Catholic social doctrine. A priest soon wrote to me, expressing his horror at my lack of “caution” in challenging the “Lord’s anointed.” Interestingly, this priest didn’t tell me that I was wrong, only that the bishop shouldn’t be challenged seemingly on no other grounds than that he was a bishop.
Power. It is the game the left plays. It isn’t a question of right or wrong; it is only a question of power.
That the Church’s ministers are managing decline and have capitulated to the post-Christian world at every step is an open secret. During the COVID pandemonium, the Church’s bishops closed the churches. The Bishops of England and Wales pre-emptively begged the government to authorise the closure of their churches before the government had even proposed such measures.
This event really was the ultimate blow. The secular authorities played their hand at dealing a death blow to Church authority, and not only did Church authorities go along with it, many led the charge.
The hierarchy effectively proclaimed that, at a time of widespread alarm and instability, the Church would not be there for the faithful. Worse still, it would help to foment the draconian measures, power-grabbing, and destruction of civil liberties by state governments.
And the timing could not have been more appropriate – if you want to crush the Church:
For the first time in the Church’s history, the Apostles’ successors apocalyptically cancelled the festive liturgies of the Easter Octave. The Church’s teachers in effect declared that sanctifying the faithful, preaching the Gospel, and making disciples of all nations, did not constitute ‘essential services.’
While strip clubs and pot shops stayed open.
Over the last century, the Church has undergone the greatest apostasy in its history. And yet, amazingly, people are still sporadically converting to Catholicism. In the West, such people—especially young people—are coming to the Catholic Church through the traditional liturgy and the wider trad movement.
I see similar moves to the Eastern Orthodox Church and to Protestant churches that stick to traditional, Biblical, principles when it comes to today’s cultural disasters. It is to conservative traditions and denominations where the people are turning.
As the West continues to plummet into its now unavoidable civilisational collapse, we shall see the rise of all kinds of superstitions and witchcrafts, which will likely serve to bestow a religious character upon the technocratic age of bio-government and transhumanism that we’ve now entered.
Man will always worship something. When Nietzsche announced the death of God, he did not claim that God would be replaced by nothing. Instead, He would be replaced by the superman.
In the current situation, it seems that the remaining Church’s faithful will persevere by opting to double-down on the devotional life. This is exactly what all the committed Christians I know are doing. They’re taking stock of the collapse of our civilization and the utter sterility of the institutional Church in the face of it, and in response they’re deepening their spiritual lives and clinging to Christ.
I will mention something I have started. I am spending significant time on the Sermon on the Mount. Verse by verse, really dwelling on how I measure up (not well) and where I fall short (most of it). I am thinking that when I get through it, I will just start over.
What I’m pointing to is the imperative to re-enchant our world, and in turn encounter the God whose emanated likeness it is. …But to respond thus, the Church, in the titanic task of unshackling itself from the modern paradigm, may have to offer a chair at its table to Hermes Trismegistus, perhaps next to Plato, Aristotle, Cicero, Seneca, and so many other greats whom it has retrospectively baptised.
This conversation is happening. While I cannot say if Jordan Peterson started it, he certainly accelerated it. The aforementioned John Vervaeke is involved, as is Jonathan Pageau, Paul VanderKlay and many others.
Restoring any kind of credibility will not be the work of decades, but of centuries. By then, it may be too late.
Yes, it may take centuries, but it won’t be too late. To quote G.K. Chesterton:
“Christendom has had a series of revolutions and in each one of them Christianity has died. Christianity has died many times and risen again; for it had a God who knew the way out of the grave.”