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Quote:Good article here. It is about rigorism. I myself know plenty of rigorists. They and their methods have caused much damage to my faith and spirituality, and likely to others.

It is incredible how many trads foolishly believe that to be a good Catholic one must by definition be a heartless, fascistic, authoritarian, reactionary and doctrinaire rigorist. And when this is resisted, it is often confronted with accusations of laxity and modernism.

I remember when the YouCat came out, and of all the horrid things about this book they could have criticised, I remember some Trads getting bent out of shape because of the inclusion of a quote by C.S. Lewis. He was right of course, chastity is not the be-all and end-all, however, because some trads are incredibly stupid, the moment you say this, they cry "Modernist! Modernist! Advocate of sexual sin! Promoter of impurity!" etc.. Makes you want to bang your head against a wall. 

It is the same with the synod, when I say I feel the unjust process of annulments is in dire need of reform they would intimate I were a 'Kasperite', an outright modernist, or perhaps a neo-Catholic who is foolishly impervious to the dangers of the situation the Church is in.

Because I am a European, and since we naturally read our own nation's political culture on to other nations, many conservative American Catholics would consider me a socialist, and therefore disobedient to the teachings of the Church, which they could easily say about Pope Benedict, and Pope Francis (which they have of course already), and even Bishop Fellay for that matter! And definitely Chesterton, and of course Leo XIII.

I remember once I introduced myself as a Traditional Catholic on Jihad watch. I also called myself a humanist. A group of trads on Robert Spencer's blog ganged up on me, and said I was a liar and a fake trad, who was pretending to be a trad in order to discredit trads, apparently because trads could have no such opinions as the ones I was saying! Because they are stupid and not as clever as they think (or at least not as knowledgeable), they do not even have the slightest clue what humanism means, and presumably thought it was something to do with liberalism or secularism, which it is not. (They also thought conservative and traditional as in traditional and conservative Catholic, were synonymous with 'Republican' and 'tea party'. Of course, being British this concept is entirely alien to me, and made me realise how much we are completely different cultures with a common language.

The Rigorist Menace to Faith

by John Zmirak - April 21, 2010

Reprinted with permission from our good friends at InsideCatholic.com, the leading online journal of Catholic faith, culture, and politics.

The threats to the Church don't always arise where you expect them. As C. S. Lewis's Screwtape advised young tempters, the Enemy's best strategy is to catch us off guard and keep us there, focused on dangers in the rear-view mirror and ignoring that silly "Do Not Enter" sign up ahead. The devil, Lewis wrote, wants us "rushing about with fire extinguishers when there is a flood, and crowding to that side of the boat which is already nearly gunwale under."

In sexual ethics, this infernal principle's application should be obvious today. Read the works of theologians who reject the Church's teachings, and you'll find in them turgid page after page on the dangers of "Puritanism" and "Jansenism" (and such terms used loosely or falsely), even the flesh-hating Albigensianism. Such warnings were written even as "free love" was being proclaimed at Woodstock, suburban couples were swapping wives in the 1970s, whole new strains of venereal disease were cooking up in American bedrooms and bathhouses, and abortion was being legalized around the world. Clearly, the real threat to sanity and virtue that needed confronting was… Rigorism. Right?

On issues of eros, Christians are inundated with messages urging them to let their consciences go slack and presumptuously assume that God will be "understanding." How many of us have had to argue with a confessor, "Yes, Father, it bloody well is a sin – now would you please absolve it?" How wearisome it has gotten, this fantasy football game orthodox Catholics have had to play for 40 years, doing research to correct our priests and teachers, greeting each new appointment of a bishop or a pastor with the almost idle musing: "I wonder if he's a Catholic?" Inevitably, since Humanae Vitae, the litmus test has to do with sex.

It wasn't always so, and Laxism isn't the only problem. Give it time, and I'm sure that a soul-crushing Rigorism on sexual morality will reassert itself (at least in some Catholic subcultures). Just so, young Muslims in Europe stumble out of strip joints, go find the most radical mosque, and strap themselves with explosives. That's how the devil works – goading us to and fro between a laxness that makes Faith bland and meaningless and a rigor that renders Faith unlivable and implausible.

Nor is sex the only issue. In Europe, the Enemy spent 100 years distorting the virtue of patriotism into hideous, Rigorist forms of nationalism. Then, after these ideologies helped kill some 80 million or more in two world wars and multiple genocides, the devil shoved patriotism off the stage and taught us that one's native land means nothing. It's not worth fighting for, and the sooner economic globalism, international bureaucracies, mass migration, and mass media can dissolve us all into a pea-green homogenous soup, the better. This Laxist approach to patriotism absolves our obligation to sacrifice for our fellow citizen or our neighbor. We owe him nothing more than we do the remotest goatherd in Mongolia.

Heresies tend to appear and disappear in just this dialectical fashion: The Gnostics denied Christ's humanity; the Arians arose, as if in answer, to doubt His divinity. Many historic heresies, unsurprisingly, centered on imponderable mysteries such as the Incarnation and the Eucharist. But still more focused on our moral life and hinged on Laxist or Rigorist readings of the evangelical counsels. These are, you might recall, the statements by Christ where He enjoins a life of poverty, celibacy, and obedience.

A bald reading of commandments like "Sell all you have and give it to the poor" might yield the interpretation that this is a universal commandment. So Christians must reject the most fundamental fact of economic life – private property. Such a poverty was embraced by the Waldensian heretics and many other anti-worldly sects. When the Franciscan order arose to rediscover the value of this command as a counsel and a witness against the corruption and worldliness of late medieval Italy, the Church was wise to welcome it. A splinter group, called the "Spiritual Franciscans," considered the Church too lax in permitting private property to anyone. Its leaders denounced the ownership of property as mortally sinful – and were duly excommunicated for their Rigorist heresy.

In the early Church, Gnostic Christians called for universal celibacy, rejecting marriage and procreation. In medieval France, the Albigensians revived this doctrine. So, more recently, did the Shakers – a sect that survived for centuries by adopting the children of non-Shakers, which now consists of a few old ladies and one lonely male convert. The Church duly condemned each of these Rigorist attacks on the holiness of marriage.

Few have ever ventured to suggest that all Christians adopt the kind of absolute obedience to their bishops that monks owe their religious superior – although some "lay movements" in the Church today do try to impose that level of control on Catholic laymen. Still, we can see in every extreme of clericalism the shadow of this temptation to turn all the world into a monastery and deny laymen their role as the leaders of society with the duty of seeking justice, obedient to faithful conscience and the virtue of prudence. When clerics today demand socialist economic policies, one-sided military disarmament, or open borders, they are engaged in just this sort of clericalism. Frequently, they are inspired by a Rigorist, heretical view of private property, just war theory, or the brotherhood of man.

Moving beyond the evangelical counsels to other statements from the mouth of Christ, various pacifist sects such as the Anabaptists (the spiritual ancestors of today's Mennonites), took "turn the other cheek" to mean that no Christian could fight even to defend his children, much less himself or his country. Many idealistic Christians, from Pax Christi to the Catholic Worker, share that sentiment today – though few inside the Church will state pacifist principles baldly. If they prevailed, the result would be universal slavery and the dominion of evil men over the innocent whom we have failed to protect.

Rigorism tempts not the lukewarm but the devout. The heart of a sincere, self-sacrificing believer feels drawn beyond the carefully worked-out, sane middle ground the Church has cleared on which ordinary Christians can build their lives. Instead of reading this experience as a religious vocation they might follow, Rigorists apply their insights universally and build from them ideologies. Surely, the "institutional Church," corrupted perhaps by Constantine, has compromised the plain intentions of Christ. Is not "orthodoxy" really a fig-leaf for worldliness and Laxity?

This raises the question of why the Church has interpreted the evangelical counsels not as universal commands but as modes of perfection to which a few Christians are called. Those who accept religious vocations vow to live the counsels literally as a witness of otherworldliness, but most of us do not.

Why is that? Because, if taken at face value and applied to everyone, the evangelical counsels would be incompatible with the continuance of the human race. This is most obvious in the case of celibacy – see you in 70 years! – but it applies equally to poverty and obedience. Abolishing private property on a large scale would rob economic activity of the energy that comes from legitimate self-love, and result in widespread starvation – as it did in the Soviet Union. Enforcing on all Christians the kind of absolute obedience to their bishops that monks owe their religious superior would yield a totalitarian state – while handing bishops the absolute power that tends to corrupt absolutely. We've seen how well bishops tend to handle the very limited power they already have; the prospect of giving them even more is hardly tempting.

Just as every Laxist heresy dissolves the evangelical counsels like a drop of iodine in a pool, each Rigorist error concentrates them into such a high dose they would prove toxic.

So let's state the matter baldly: Each Rigorist heresy that arises – from open borders globalism to Christian socialism, from Albigensianism to pacifism – is more than a threat to the prudent governance of human society. It is a direct attack on the truth of the Christian claim. If Christ had meant the evangelical counsels to apply literally to everyone, the Church He founded would have been the enemy of the human race, and Christianity would be false. The Pharisees would have been right, and Judas a hero. That healthy gut realization, and not some drunken love affair with Prudence, is why we Catholics fight the Rigorists with all the fervor our ancestors displayed against the Albigensians.
I would just point out that Zmirak is in fact one of those who believes that "conservative" and "traditional" are synonymous with "Republican" and "Tea Party." In any case, I hope you'll realize that people can disagree with you without being stupid, evil, deranged Nazis who eat babies and dream of burning heretics. You do not have a monopoly on truth. And I say this as someone who has expressed concerns similar to your own: http://www.fisheaters.com/forums/index.p...=3452519.0
(10-11-2014, 09:28 PM)Crusading Philologist Wrote: [ -> ]I would just point out that Zmirak is in fact one of those who believes that "conservative" and "traditional" are synonymous with "Republican" and "Tea Party." In any case, I hope you'll realize that people can disagree with you without being stupid, evil, deranged Nazis who eat babies and dream of burning heretics. You do not have a monopoly on truth. And I say this as someone who has expressed concerns similar to your own: http://www.fisheaters.com/forums/index.p...=3452519.0

Oh I didn't know that. I have never heard of Zmirak before. This article is the first I've read of him.

I should have mentioned it in my first bit, that I don't per se agree with anything in the article, just the general theme, I could have used another article to express the point of the thread. So by all means you may disagree with me or him or whoever. I am actually tolerant with divergent views, you should have to have to say something really bad for me to call you a Nazi, for example "lets have a second shot of that Holocaust that never happened, and lets make sure we get them all this time" (I am not aware on any traditional Catholic who has ever said this, I think it's more on an ISIS/extreme Islamist thing these days)

I shouldn't wish to demonise anybody here, which would be hypocritical of me, since I complain about myself having been demonised.

I am sure I annoy people here. But does the original post come across as arrogant or holy-than-thou (I think you said as much in another thread)? I hope not, it isn't my intention. I don't want to push my political beliefs on to others either, it's absolutely fine if you are Republican/tea-party, just don't force it on me is all. There are actually several UKIP voters in my parish, there is no conflict.

I had a really bad incident with someone, perhaps this has given me a bitter tone?
(10-11-2014, 09:28 PM)Crusading Philologist Wrote: [ -> ]I would just point out that Zmirak is in fact one of those who believes that "conservative" and "traditional" are synonymous with "Republican" and "Tea Party." In any case, I hope you'll realize that people can disagree with you without being stupid, evil, deranged Nazis who eat babies and dream of burning heretics. You do not have a monopoly on truth. And I say this as someone who has expressed concerns similar to your own: http://www.fisheaters.com/forums/index.p...=3452519.0

Yes, don't worry, I realise this.

Perhaps my tone is strident due to an unpleasant experience I had with someone.

I know that there are people in the Church who definitely are modernists and neo-Catholics and who love to tell us how mean and evil trads are. Don't worry, I am not one of them. I hope I have resolved that potential suspicion. I get this all the time, I attend an SSPX chapel, and some histrionic neo-Catholic types think I am satanic Nazi scum. Be reassured, I know where you are coming from, CrusadingPhilologist.

I am familiar with the demonisation of trads in this particular language of anathema, especially the Vichy/fascism canards the SSPX have to deal with, and the persistent accusations of being pharisees, reactionary etc. that all trads have to deal with. I too have seen this, but I have  also witnessed  genuine rigorism from trads. This thread is just about the latter, that is all.
In moral theology a rigorist is someone who believes that unless something is explicitly approved it must be avoided,  Rigorism as a school of moral theology is condemned.  I think what is being discussed by Zimark would be better called extremism, heresy and false zeal, the article is injured by him not using of precise language.
I've seen this also, but not exactly related to the issue taken by Zmirak, but more to the issue you raised on your own commentary at the top: that is, this sort of mob mentality, the demonization of stuff outside of the group (as if one can think in group -- typical of liberals: “let's have a meeting to decide this or that issue”), the use of devil- and god-terms to decide any debate, etc. (what I have in mind were some early discussions I had on von Balthasar, Ratzinger et al.)

This kinda puts traditional Catholicism into a very serious problem: if we are indeed the group that claims to have the Catholicism of all the ages we should be able to see nuances, to see the validity of different theological approaches or positions, so on and so forth, and not be like just another ideological group.
(10-11-2014, 11:37 PM)nmoerbeek Wrote: [ -> ]In moral theology a rigorist is someone who believes that unless something is explicitly approved it must be avoided,  Rigorism as a school of moral theology is condemned.  I think what is being discussed by Zimark would be better called extremism, heresy and false zeal, the article is injured by him not using of precise language.

Point noted.
I have nothing to add just now but I think this is a very important topic and I would like to be informed of developments.

Another forum I was on had a little smilie that said "I have nothing to add... I just wanted to be included in this thread".
I don't have anything of value to add right now, but I want to register that I think that article is pretty good and I look forward to reading the commentary of others on it.
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