Monday, July 02, 2007

Democratization of the Church

It is not hard to point out many of the changes in the past forty years that have contributed to the current state of doctrinal apathy and moral confusion in the Church. One could cite the liturgical reforms forced on the Church in the name of the spirit of Vatican II (which find no justification in the documents of Vatican II), or one could point to the abandonment of traditional ecclesiology that emphasized the subsistence of truth within the Catholic faith for a newer, more ecumenical ecclesiology which waters down the distinctive nature of the Church and adopts an "I'm okay, you're okay" attitude towards Protestantism. One could point to the tragic decline in biblical scholarship in the past century, characterized by the general acceptance by scholars of anti-supernatural bias, as well as the heretical Documentary Hypothesis and the "Q" Theory (also called the "Two Source" Theory). In this vein, I could point to the ambiguitites created by such documents as Sacrosanctum Concilium and Dei Verbum (chapter 11 in particular). Couple all of these factors with the strange phenomenon of the Popes since John XXIII renouncing much of their authority and adopting a more "pastoral" in place of an authoritative position, and we have a recipe for the present chaos in the Church.

I am not the first one by far to point this out, and volumes have been written on these issues. However, I think they are but instrumental causes of the Church's present state. I notice that they all presuppose another, more foundational tenet which is not discussed or debated so much as it is taken for granted: this is the tend towards democratization in the Church. To be sure, the Church is not a democracy, nor has it ever proclaimed itself to be; but these days it acts more and more like one. Popes no longer wear the triple tiara; rather, they delegate their authority to commissions and congregations; bishops make no move without the advice of committees of lay advisors, and even parish priests work hand in hand with "worship teams" and other useless bodies of individuals who contribute very little to the common good but do foster much confusion and disillusionment.

One reason why the Middle Ages is considered by many to be a Golden Age of the Church is that the Church and State both followed the same model in their structure. Everybody knows that God's kingdom is not a democracy; Christ is the King of Kings and rules absolutely. It is a divine monarchy. In the temporal sphere, the Church functioned as a monarchy as well, with the Pope ruling as the physical head of the Church Militant and the bishops acting as the princes or prelates of the ecclesiastical kingdom. Likewise, civil society was ordered on the monarchic model, with the king reigning in the name of God and exercising the authority vested in his person by divine order.

Following the social changes of the past two centuries, we now have a different situation: Christ, of course, who is unchanging, is still the same and is still King and His kingdom is still a divine monarchy. But civil society has cast off monarchy in favor of democracy and liberal government. Now, the Church is in the middle. As part of Christ's kingdom, she must conform to His order; but more often than not she finds herself instead influenced by the existing socio-political framework. Thus, democracy is seen by the Church as something inherently meritorious, an attitude that is novel to the Church's tradition. The Church had frequently been pressured to submit to a popular will of the people before (as the 17th century French bishops clamored for their so-called "Gallican liberties" and the 19th century liberal Biblical scholars asserted that the papacy had to assent to their heretical views on the Sacred Scriptures, whose views were condemned in Lamenatbili Sane in 1907); the difference is that in ages past, the Popes vigorously asserted their unique prerogatives against those who insisted on the Popes bending to the will of the people. Now, the popes and bishops cave in or go soft when they are confronted with a "majority opinion" (by the way, check out Numbers 16:1-50 and I Samuel 8:1-22 to see what God thinks of majority opinion).

It is clear that to fix anything in the Church it will take authority. And no authority can be exercized until the Popes and Bishops rise up and take the authority that is rightfully theirs and reject this devastating trend of "democratization."

No comments: