Monday, November 21, 2016

The Quisling. . .

Anthony Esolen has written a penetrating article in Crisis magazine well describing four perspectives of the Church.  He writes, of course, from the perspective of a Roman Catholic but his insights describe what we all face in other denominations as we strive to be faithful.  Of all his characterizations, I was most intrigued by the quisling.

The Quisling
Second, the Quislings. The Quisling does not hate the Church, but he does not love her, either. He is a worldling and craves the approval of the world. He believes in “the future,” and that means he is easy prey for the peddlers of ideological fads: a field mouse against the Great Horned Owl. He is embarrassed by tradition. He is seldom brave enough to express formal heresy, just as he is seldom brave enough to defend the Church with any clarity or confidence. He seems pleasant enough, is perfectly lamb-like when it comes to wining and dining with the powerful, but will turn with a pent-up frustration against the ordinary churchgoer who dares to question his prudence. If he is a bishop, he is secretly happy to close churches and sell off their property, comforting himself with the thought that he is doing what is only necessary in hard times, and blaming the parishioners themselves for failing to bring up their children in the faith—when in point of fact he and the chancery have given them no help at all in doing so, and have usually checked them at every pass.

The Quisling wants the state to bring the Church into “the modern world,” whatever that may be; it depends upon the times and the place. Oh, he does not want the compulsion to be violent, and he can intone pontifically about the sanctity of individual conscience; so long as the individual with the tender conscience keeps it to himself, where it will remain ineffectual and inert, like a seed on concrete. The Quisling, with a sad and knowing shake of his head, pleases himself by meditating upon the many sins of his Holy Mother the Church, and will magnify them, or even invent sins that she never committed, the better to prove to himself how open-minded and pious he is.
Of all our enemies, I wonder if the quisling is not our greatest.  Under the guise of not hating but neither loving the Church, the quisling wants to befriend the Church, to save her from herself, to restore her to relevance, to rescue her from her past, and to reconnect her to the modern world.  The quisling is happen enough when the traditionalists fall into trouble because the quisling believes that the Church is too mired in the past to be effective in the present and future.  The quisling is always telling the Church that she must to do this or that to survive.  The quisling runs neither hot nor cold about the Church but the passion in this one burns not for the embrace of a new world and desires to bring the Church into this new world with its own estimations of truth and dogma.

It is easy enough to identify those who are true enemies and who work without guile against the Church.  It is much harder to identify those who damn with faint praise, who destroy by helping, and who blame truth for the mess the Church is in.  Those of us who desire to be faithful to the catholic and apostolic faith are gravely tempted every day to abandon truth for what works, to set aside doctrine in the name of modernity, and to give people what they think they want in order to preserve the illusion of success foisted upon us by the world.  But the quisling is harder to see, more difficult to identity, and most effective in parading as friend and not foe.

For Rome, the quislings are those who say that in the name of saving the Church, they must change it.  Divorce is not going away.  Embrace it.  Abortion is not going away.  Get over it.  Doctrine does not save but good works do (especially social advocacy even more than feeding the hungry, tending the sick, or giving YOUR resources to the poor.  We are told constantly that doctrine divides and works unite.  Francis said it to the Lutherans didn't he?  Why not believe it?  The things that once divided us are old news and these things do not matter in the new world order of a social gospel.

Lutherans are not far behind.  Once a group took the things once condemned by Scripture and well outside the Lutheran ethos and made them the rallying points of faith -- justice, equity, judge not lest ye be judged, God is doing a new thing.  The end result was a Lutheranism in name only that kept the form but not the substance of the faith in creed and in liturgy.  Once a group took the things that seemed to be working to fill the houses of worship owned by the evangelical crowd and insisted that substance and form can be different, that we can act one way on Sunday morning and believe another way, that it was no big deal to switch masks and save face.

Our enemies outside the faith are easy enough though not pleasant to confront.  Those inside the faith are more difficult to mark.  But those who come as friends who are trying to tell the Church the hard truth "change or die" often are the ones who do the most damage.  Yes, changes need to be made.  Yes, the Church cannot be an orphan in the next generation.  But neither can we be faithful without connecting truth and doctrine to practice and liturgy.  Neither can we be effective without being the same yesterday, today, and forever in the Christ we confess and the kerygma we proclaim.  Neither can we trade away one identity for a new one that fits the times without becoming a widow in the next generation, whose children have abandoned her and whose memory has faded too much to remember what it was that was so important to believe and confess anyway.

Esolen has it right enough.  Are we listening?

1 comment:

John Joseph Flanagan said...

And sometimes the "Quisling" is merely a complainer of sorts, filled with pride, and believing he or she is the master of their soul. These individuals derive more pleasure from tearing things down rather than reforming or improving something which is imperfect but not wholly defective. We all have met the Quislings inside and outside of the church. They criticize but offer little constructive advice. Mainly, they are in love with the sound of their own voice. It is pride which drives them. That is why each of us have to gurard against the bad manifestations of pride.