THE SCHIZOPHRENIA OF THE WEST by Charles A. Coulombe

 

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Two events – one personal, one national – caught my attention this week. One was the funeral of an acquaintance who belonged to an organisation of which I am a member. A highly decorated Navy veteran, his obsequies were held at the Episcopal Church of Our Savior in San Gabriel, California.  The other was the impending closure of the Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, Massachusetts. On the one hand, the memorial service of the late Commander was conducted in the dignified manner one would associate with the parish of the late George S. Patton (a stained glass window depicts the general in a tank, which image surmounts one of St. George conquering a Nazi dragon complete with swastikas on its body). It reminded me of the “Church of Beauty” sobriquet once applied to the Episcopal Church. But on the other, the closure of the EDS reminded me of the doctrinally and spiritually bankrupt nature of that denomination’s leadership – both in this country and in its sister bodies in the British Isles, Canada, Australasia, and South Africa (their colleagues in the rest of Africa and elsewhere have more vitality). That bankruptcy has to do with a wholesale embrace of anti- and para-Christian modernity, and concomitant rejection of what Anglicanism had been, both religiously and politically, and which was summed up in my departed friend’s life and career (and Patton’s, for that matter): patriotism, noblesse oblige, and self-sacrifice. To be fair, embrace and that rejection has been a necessity for an ecclesiastical body whose major role has been to sanctify whatever was required to be sanctified by the elite that dominates the Anglosphere. When said elite was made up of men of the calibre of the departed parishioners of Our Saviour, the Episcopal Church was indeed at least dignified; but as its client base morphed into the circus folk they have become, so indeed did it have to.

To be sure, there has always been a schizophrenia in Anglicanism: not merely in doctrinal matters between Anglo-Catholics (themselves divided between pro- and anti-Papalists), Modernists, and Evangelicals, but on historical topics as well. For simultaneously, the Episcopal Church in this country harboured many who treasured their Faith’s historic ties with Great Britain and its Monarchy (often expressed in prayers for the Queen on Royal occasions, devotion to King Charles the Martyr, the “Kirkin’ of the Tartans,” and the like), and others who considered themselves as guardians of the heritage of our Revolution (to be seen in such Episcopalian shrines as the George Washington Memorial Chapel at Valley Forge, Boston’s Old North Church, and Christ Church, Philadelphia). Southern Episcopalians treasured evidences of their Church’s historical ties to the Confederacy, while their Northern brethren nurtured similar ties to Episcopalian efforts on behalf of the Union. Over and above all of this was the effort on the part of Episcopalians to function as a de facto national Church, as seen in the National Cathedral and St. John’s, Lafayette Square (the Church of the Presidents”) in Washington.  None of this, incidentally, is to downgrade the authentic worth of certain elements of the Anglican Patrimony which Pope Benedict XVI wanted to purify and save for the Catholic Church, to which end he founded the Ordinariates. Moreover, these particular realities are merely local symptoms of a sickness which pervades the West – that self-same Schizophrenia.


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To understand this phenomenon, we first have to define our terms. In his 1996 book The Clash of Civilisations, Samuel P. Huntington opined that there on this globe of ours is divided into ten civilisations: Japanese, Sinic, Buddhist, Hindu, African, Islamic, Islamic/Hindu, Latin American, Orthodox, and Western. While I agree with many of Huntington’s premises and conclusions, there is one of the former with which I must disagree wholeheartedly. In reality, the last three are one, whether they like it or not. It is the civilisation formed by Christendom, itself a product of the marriage between Hebrew-derived Sacramental Christianity, Greek Philosophy, and Roman law. This is the triple inheritance of anyone born to that culture, be he born in Buenos Aires, New York, Paris, or Moscow. The bane of the West, however, is that very Schizophrenia.

Religiously, of course, the disease is the result firstly of the schism between Catholicism and Orthodoxy (for all that said break is generally dated to 1054, juridically it goes back only to 1462, when Constantinople’s Patriarch Gennadios II, appointed by Sultan Mehmed the Conqueror precisely for the purpose, renewed the schism). But that break – as with earlier ones with the Armenians, Syrians, Copts, Ethiopians, and Assyrians – did not result in an alteration in Sacramental belief. As the current Patriarch of Moscow told Der Spiegel back in 2008, “the schism between the Catholic and Orthodox Churches reminds one of a divorce as it is resulted from ‘human sins’: West and East divorced as they thought they would not need each other. Reunion is possible only through a spiritual closing on. We can sign as many papers as one wishes. But if we do not have a feeling that we love each other, that we are one family, that we need each other there will be no reunion.” Yet that spirit of divorce reigns among the Orthodox Churches as well, as seen most recently in the scuttling of  the planned “Great and Holy” Pan-Orthodox Council in Crete. Partly, the attempt at creating a concerted Orthodox synod was ruined by rivalry between the Churches of Constantinople and Moscow; but it should be born in mind that – despite the labeling of the Catholic Church by some Orthodox as the “Roman-Papalist Parasynagogue,” most Orthodox believe an Ecumenical Council to be impossible without the participation of the Pope. Indeed, Orthodoxy as such is at something of an impasse. Soloviev in Russia and the Universal Church points   out that, on the one hand, “No œcumenical council has condemned or even passed judgment on the Catholic doctrines anathematized by our controversialists; and when we are offered this new kind of negative theology as the true doctrine of the Universal Church, we can see in it only an extravagant imposture originating either in ignorance or in bad faith.” But on the other hand, “…our best theologians, such as Philaret of Moscow, themselves admit that an œcumenical council is impossible for the Eastern Church as long as she remains separated from the West. But it is the easiest thing in the world for our self-styled Orthodox to confront the actual councils of the Catholic Church with a council that can never take place…”


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Of course, this schizophrenia is also at play in Western Christianity as well. The most obvious in the Protestant/Catholic break. Protestantism manifests the illness quite clearly – and not merely in the innumerable sects to which the movement gave rise. Apart from the specific doctrinal issues that have created said sects, there are two broad ones: Sacramental and Liturgical, which pits certain of the Anglicans, Lutherans, and Reformed/Presbyterians against their co-denominationalists (and whose local version in the Episcopal Church we touched on); and Established versus “Free” Churches. In America, this last has roughly translated into “Mainstream” Protestantism versus Evangelicalism. The questions here are not just doctrinal, but also political, and in a sense sociological, and in both case are partly fuelled by how much continuity the Protestant believer wants to claim with the pre-Reformation Church in his area.

Nor has the Catholic Church escaped the disease. Pope Benedict XVI characterised it in his December 2005 Address to the Curia as the Hermeneutics of “Continuity” and “Rupture;” others might call it the struggle between Tradition and Modernism. At any rate, while the conflict between the two was left unresolved in the liturgical field after Benedict left the Papacy – as shown by the current controversy over Cardinal Sarah’s encouragement to priests to return to the millennia-old practise of offering Mass ad orientem (as is done by Eastern Catholics, Eastern and Oriental Orthodox, and Assyrians), the divide has had even more paralyzing effects upon the Church. According to Benedict in an interview he granted on March 16 of this year:

If it is true that the great missionaries of the 16th century were still convinced that those who are not baptized are forever lost – and this explains their missionary commitment – in the Catholic Church after the Second Vatican Council that conviction was finally abandoned.

From this came a deep double crisis. On the one hand this seems to remove any motivation for a future missionary commitment. Why should one try to convince the people to accept the Christian faith when they can be saved even without it? But also for Christians an issue emerged: the obligatory nature of the faith and its way of life began to seem uncertain and problematic. If there are those who can save themselves in other ways, it is not clear, in the final analysis, why the Christian himself is bound by the requirements of the Christian faith and its morals. If faith and salvation are no longer interdependent, faith itself becomes unmotivated.

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Indeed. And since all those elements of Catholicism that even many outside her fold admire – her art, music, charities, social teachings, and so on – were merely byproducts of her pursuit of her salvific mission, can it be any wonder that those too have withered as so many of her leaders and members have ceased to believe in that which produced those things?

This religious schizophrenia has had a disastrous effect – growing ever more deleterious as it has assisted in the growth of secularism – on the West as a whole, because, in truth our civilisation was produced in the main by two major pillars – the altar and throne. How could we not be sick as well, with our religious foundation so deeply afflicted?

The same is true politically. From the time of the Wars of the Three Kingdoms (as modern scholars have come to more accurately call the English Civil War), the other pillar of the West, the throne, has come under attack. In the Protestant countries of Europe, the Crown was eventually tamed by the various national oligarchies (save in Germany, where the Two World Wars dictated a different, although cognate, development) despite the best efforts of the Cavalier and Jacobites in the British Isles and various “Conservative” groups in the Netherlands, Scandinavia, and initially, Prussia. The outward form was retained, while the reality was dictated by those who counted. This comfortable arrangement was shattered in the 1960s, when the elites became something quite different – sine when those Monarchies have, to a greater or lesser degree, been in a sort of state of siege.

In the Catholic and Orthodox European lands, however, violent revolution was necessary to overthrow the various Crowns, starting in 1789. This development led eventually to secular republics in most of Europe, the collapse of Austria-Hungary, and Protestant-style Monarchies in Spain and Belgium. Each of these countries, as Charles Maurras pointed out in the case of France, became divided between the Pays reel – the “Real Country,” Monarchical and Catholic/Orthodox, and the Pays Legal – the “Legal Country,” republican and secularist. The rise of the generation of ’68 in Western Europe and the rise and fall of Communism in Russia and the East brought on a complete divorce between the ethos that built the Continent and its current rulership.


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Despite this, the abiding influence of altar and throne remained, if only because the very languages spoken and the public buildings inhabited by the new rulership were their products. How to reconcile the fact that all we enjoy was based upon those pillars, while our leadership are deathly opposed to them? Schizophrenia again. Look up the website of any European parliament or government ministry, and you shall see that split personality at work, as the Royal origins of the body in question are extolled – as what the various republican or revolutionary governments made of it is as well. The irony of being proud of the various Monarchs who built the structure in which said body is housed and the procedures by which it does business – and praising those who exiled or killed those Monarchs descendants never seems to catch the attention of the writers of these accounts.

Yet schizophrenia even afflicts self-declared Monarchists. It is not just a question of the sort of dynastic conflicts that afflict or afflicted France, Spain, Portugal, Italy, the Two Sicilies, and Russia – for all that these disputes oft-times actually epitomise ideological conflicts. There are also such questions as whether or not a restored Monarch would exercise effective power, and how religious or secular the government produced by such a restoration would be. These issues ensure that instead of most European countries having a unite Monarchist or Royalist element able to effectively project their views, there are merely a collection of mutually hostile “groupuscules.” In addition, since such folk are generally very nationalist as well, they are often unable to see their own similarities with similar folk across Europe. Very few, perhaps, share the vision enunciated by Fr. Aidan Nicholas, O.P., in his Christendom Awake: “The articulation of the foundational natural and Judaeo-Christian norms of a really united Europe, for instance, would most appropriately be made by such a crown, whose legal and customary relations with the national peoples would be modelled on the best aspects of historic practice in the (Western) Holy Roman Empire and the Byzantine “Commonwealth” — to use the term popularised by Professor Dimtri Obolensky. Such a crown, as the integrating factor of an international European Christendom, would leave intact the functioning of parliamentary government in the republican or monarchical polities of its constituent nations and analogues in city and village in other representative and participatory forms.” Instead – especially when confronted by grinning parody of such a Holy Empire as the European Union has become – most European Monarchists would love to follow the United Kingdom’s Brexit – supported by most of that country’s most ardent supporters of the Crown. Nevertheless, as Valentin Tomberg informs us, “Europe is haunted by the shadow of the Emperor. One senses his absence just as vividly as in former times one sensed his presence. Because the emptiness of the wound speaks, that which we miss knows how to make us sense it.”


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As we know, the Kings of France, Spain, Portugal, Great Britain, and other countries presided over the expansion of their countries across the planet. On one level, this produced “new Europes” – the Christian “daughter nations” of the Americas, Australasia, the Philippines, and South Africa. But the same Schizophrenia followed. In the British Dominions this was expressed by a love hate relationship between the Anglophone settlers and their Mother Country – to-day manifested in the republican/Monarchist disputes which continue to agitate the Commonwealth Realms. For peoples such as the French-Canadians and the Afrikaaners it led not only to conflict with their English-speaking co-nationals, but within their own communities over such issues as continued adherence to their native versions of Christianity and connexion to their cultural motherlands.  In Spanish America and the Philippines, it led to a cultural conflict between Hispanidad and Indigenismo. Colonial activity also led to the birth of hybrid European/indigenous ethnicities in Senegal, Madagascar, Angola, Mozambique, Mauritius, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Singapore, and elsewhere. While often serving as base foundations for Christianity in their countries, decolonisation forced them to choose between exile to their “home countries” – and making their way in what were really alien environments – or staying in increasingly hostile homelands, where they must decide whether and how much to assimilate.

These United States were and are faced with a very particular kind of Schizophrenia, of which the Episcopalian variety is only one strand.  As we saw in our last outing (Born on the Fourth of July?) the actual roots of this country are deeply Royal and Christian. But the Revolution and Constitution that created our political system – as well as subsequent attempts to understand them – were and are extremely schizophrenic, indeed. Apart from Loyalist rejection of the whole thing (as chronicled, for example, in Wallace Brown’s The Good Americans and Thomas B. Allen’s Tories Fighting for the King in America’s First Civil War), there are two conflicting views of the proceedings. One, epitomised by Eric Nelson’s Royalist Revolutionaries and Russell Kirk’s The Roots of America’s Order and America’s British Culture emphasise continuity, seeing in these events an assertion of enduring values inherited from the Mother Country. But such as Gordon Wood in his The Radicalism of the American Revolution and Bernard Bailyn in Ideological Origins of the American Revolution emphasised the enormous break they were with what had gone before. So too with the Civil War, which has produced two very separate schools of historiography (a division that the current attack on Confederate symbols and monuments has sent roaring back into life) and the travails of Black America, which hinge on Reconstruction, Jim Crow, and the Civil Rights’ Movement (often denying or affirming continuity between these events, and most often ignoring the implosion of Black community and family life that has happened in the last five decades). Certainly the social changes imposed upon the nation by its masters over the past five decades have generated enormous division. For these and many other reasons, this country is perhaps the most fragmented it has been since the Civil War.


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Another source of schizophrenia in the West is caused in both Europe and the daughter countries by the ongoing dispute over the legacy of colonialism. As is well known the United Nations, since 1945 has pushed for Europe’s withdrawal from her colonies – going so far as to make decolonisation one of the World body’s top priorities, alongside peacekeeping, caring for the poverty struck of all nations, looking after refugees, and safeguarding Mankind’s cultural treasures. Endless textbooks bemoan the evils Europeans wreaked on the rest of humanity through their religious. economic, and political dominance. But what all of this complaining and self-hatred ignores is that the colonial empires were the foundation of to-day’s global civilisation – to include the United Nations. Indeed, in trying to fulfil their various stated goals, the work of the UN approaches (sans ethnic references) Kipling’s admonition to America:

Take up the White Man’s burden–

The savage wars of peace–

Fill full the mouth of Famine

And bid the sickness cease;

And when your goal is nearest

The end for others sought,

Watch sloth and heathen Folly

Bring all your hopes to nought.

Indeed, for all the complaining about Europeans introducing Christianity to the natives at the point of a gun, little is made of, say, the UN or president Obama attempting to blackmail Third World countries into accepting gay rights or lose any aid.

So what is to be done in the face of this massive cultural schizophrenia? Well, to start with, just as the cause is religious at base, so too must be the cure. Pope Benedict XVI saw this clearly, as evidenced by his emphasis on the necessary continuity of the Church of to-day with that of all ages; his liberation of the Latin Mass; his attempts to restore with Orthodoxy the kind of Union that existed for the Church’s First Millennium (whilst safeguarding the Eastern Catholics); and his establishment of the Anglican Ordinariates as a means of bringing Anglo-Catholics and High Church folk of other denomination into unity, preserving the best of the Anglican patrimony for the good of the whole Church, and aiding the evangelisation of the Anglosphere. With Benedict too, we must begin to see the Church not merely in terms of an organisation of dioceses, religious orders, and parishes – though it certainly is that – but as a true and living Communio, Koinonia, Sobornost: a true Communion, transcending tine and space, whose members are united as the Mystical Body of Christ by the lifeblood of the Sacraments. One might bear in mind that Emperor Theodosius  the Great made Baptism not only a Sacramental act, incorporating an individual into the Church, but a civic one as well, making him a citizen of the Roman Empire. Understanding this – and without sacrificing an iota of dogma – one then can truly begin to see and to feel how terrible a thing is the Schism. We must come to love our Eastern brethren so much that the separation becomes a pain, and our other non-Catholic brethren so much that evangelising them becomes not a chore to be feared or shirked, but the giving of the greatest gift we have.


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In more temporal terms, we must begin to see ourselves in both larger and smaller ways: not just as Americans, Catholics, and members of our families, but as dwellers of our specific places, citizens of our towns, cities, counties, and states – and descendants of our ancestral lands, members of the Anglosphere, and inhabitants and beneficiaries of Western civilisation – of Greater Europe. As the Italian publication Identita Europea puts it, “By encouraging an EUROPEAN IDENTITY we do not intend to promote a ‘western culture’ which absorbs and dissolves all diversities in a leveling attempt. On the contrary, our aim is to enlarge this identity beyond the European boundaries, thus recovering that large part of our continent “outside Europe” – from Argentina to Canada and from South Africa to Australia – which looks at the old continent not as a distant ancestor but as a real homeland.”

As Americans, we need to try – with a view to evangelising her – to love our country. Not as a political abstract or ideal, but as she is: her geography, her peoples, her strange and sometimes tragic, sometimes uplifting history. If we are Southerners, we should try to see and understand why the Yankees saw the Union as sacred and worth dying for; if Northern, why the Southerners still insist on revering the Lost Cause of the Confederacy. If we are white, we need to understand both black American history in general, and the achievements of Catholic blacks in this country; if we are black, we need to see that whites do not tend to view racial issues as central. Whatever our own ethnicity, we have to try to understand the narratives of the other nationalities in this country, as we would hope they would see ours. We should try to see our political opponents as human beings – you cannot convince those you write off as non-human of anything.

Now while all of this is theoretical, what can we actually do in the immediate? Deepen our prayer life, and use the Sacraments as often as we can – they are both our sources of unity and connexion to sanity. Cultivate devotion to the Kingship of Christ and Queenship of Mary, and to the Sacred and Immaculate Hearts. As well, it were a good idea to learn about and cultivate devotion to the Royal Saints – such as Bl. Charlemagne and Bl. Karl I of Austria – partly to relearn what good governance really is, and also to pray for guidance for our leaders and amity between the peoples of our country.

We should also get to know our town or city, and our county – not simply for its own sake, but as one small portion of the Kingdom of Christ. Working for the conservation of local nature, the preservation of nearby historic sites, and the efforts of local libraries and museums shall bring us into contact with many folk in the area, and possibly provide opportunities to evangelise.  In a nutshell, we must grow within ourselves the only true cure for the Schizophrenia of the West: love of God above all things, and of our neighbour as ourselves – always bearing in mind that the spiritual gifts we have to share are richer and better  by far than the corporal ones.


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One thought on “THE SCHIZOPHRENIA OF THE WEST by Charles A. Coulombe

  1. Here here Sir Charles. Or, rather, hear hear – listen and absorb into your soul, the grand and practical advice offered. It is up to us to rebuild Christendom, and the time is now.

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