Part Four of Four Installments
By Father Lawrence Smith
NewChurch of the
New World Order
"Tradition is a healthy respect of the old coupled with affection for the young. It is the antithesis of modernism. Where modernists look warily over their shoulders, traditionalists look eagerly to the future. Where modernists scorn history, traditionalists fondly remember their common past. Where modernists battle between sexes, generations, and cultures, traditionalists are able to seek and share communion through marriage, child rearing, and the Church."
VII. Epilogue: Modernism vs. Tradition
Do not betray an old friend to make friends with an old enemy.
- President Ronald Reagan
Stand by the old ways and ask which is the best road - and take it!
- Jeremiah 6:16 (paraphrased)
"I have come not to abolish the Law, but to fulfill it! Not one iota, not the smallest part of a letter of the Law shall pass away. Heaven and earth will pass away, but My Law shall endure!"
Jesus (see St. Matthew 5:17-20)
(The above excerpted from Protestants in Union with Rome: Modernism in the Catholic Church in America)
Modernism is a pathology that begins with an attitude of skepticism and unbelief directed toward reality that, in the end, is aimed at the self. The self, the world, and God fail to survive this rabid faithlessness. Modernism is founded on the idea that the temporal provides the only context for the only reality, namely, material existence. Empiricism shows that matter is mutable; reason extrapolates that the mind applying empiric techniques also is mutable. Nothing, ultimately, is beyond change, beyond being changed into what it is not.
This does not, however, constitute a passive reception on the part of human being. The modernist thinker applies his understanding of the universe to the life he lives in the world. There is an impact on his politics, his economics, and his interpersonal relationships. Although the modernist assumes that communication is an awkward futility, modernism does attempt to spread itself. Not, albeit, through what the Catholic might recognize as evangelism, but by what is more aptly described as thuggery.
Modernism is fixated on the new. It sees the old as competition. Furthermore, the old not only competes, but it restricts what the modernist calls his freedom. The old, for the modernist, must be eliminated for the sake of ego, progress, and liberty. Each of these three is both a motive force for the modernist and a goal to be more fully achieved.
What is new can kill what is old with impunity. First, because it is in the way of the goods of ego, progress, and liberty. Second, because the new can exist without the old, whereas the old can not be without the new. Third, the only arguments against such unprincipled behavior are themselves old and, therefore, discounted a fortiori. (The concepts of tautology, non-sequiturs, and circular logic are based on old ideas, useless as weapons against the confirmed modernist.)
Problems arise when the newer new appears on the scene. It will see the older new as a competitor and will in its turn seek to eliminate that. The line of reasoning that makes this possible is finally self-defeating, but that point is ignored as the battle is waged. Only an appeal to that which the old new supplanted could offer hope of resolution, and both the old new and the newer new reject that.
In the midst of this, the older new finds itself at odds with both the old and the newer new. It will lash out at each and both. Modernism becomes a present hateful of its past and fearful of its future. The modernist hates what he was, the lost and never to be regained; he denies what he must become, condemning the reality of aging as an unmitigated failure. It is no little irony of modernism that the modern "hate crime" of "ageism" is defined, condemned, and experienced by the growing number of greying baby boomers who coined the phrase, "don't trust anyone over thirty".
Modernist America is in the throes of this struggle. A generation is in our midst which has aborted its young and now euthanizes its elderly and sick. A slightly younger generation warehouses its children in day care and mothballs its parents in nursing homes. Our youngest adults (and many children) use contraception as readily as their concupiscence moves them to fornicate, while their parents infest suburbia and their grandparents who can escape Iowa overrun Florida and Arizona.
No loyalty across generations operates in this morass of antagonisms. Loyalty is not to be given to employer or employee, to hometown, to parish, or to neighborhood. Other human beings are reduced to being less than enemies, to being mere strangers. Enemies represent the known and despised; strangers are beneath notice altogether. Parents do not know their children's friends, interests, or activities; children do not know their parents' expectations, their families' histories, a sense of home; communities do not know stability, have no personality distinct from others, and compete not to draw citizens but to attract commerce.
Ask a modernist parent how he would feel if his child were to cohabit before marriage and that parent likely will say, "I don't care." The child does not hear, "I don't care if you live with a person of the opposite sex, fornicate, and sever your relationship with God." The child hears, "I don't care about you."
Ask a modernist child why he elects to do drugs and get drunk as a minor and he likely will say, "I don't know." His parents do not hear, "I don't know right from wrong, I don't know what my boundaries are, 'cause you never told me - I don't know if anyone cares if I live or die so long as I stay out of jail." The modernist parents hear, "I don't know how to answer that without getting in more trouble so I'm not going to say anything at all."
Mom and Dad wait for the child to leave home. The child rushes off to college or to a job as soon as possible. Family, society, and the Church are perilously weakened.
Impotence describes the modernist life. The modernist family can not entertain itself, converse with one another, or even live together (divorce rates, chronic address changes, and empty dining rooms attest to this). The modernist society can not feed itself, define itself, or maintain communities (urban sprawl, the "doughnut-hole" phenomenon in city centers, and population explosion in the south and southwest and depopulation of the mid-west and northeast attest to this). The modernist church can not feed itself (note the so-called vocations "crisis"); express itself (note the explosion of mission statements, ministry by meetings and professionalism instead of profession of vows and public professions of faith); or find itself (it is lost among the lapsed and "recovering" Catholics, empty pews on Sunday, empty desks in the schools, hospitals sold by religious orders, and parishes closed by dioceses).
Materialism is the remedy always sought by the modernist. Families pay strangers to raise their children, buy protection from their neighbors with security systems on the front door and a deck at the back of the house, and pay for things to express affection. The modernist society pays for professional politicians rather than citizens coming forward to govern; buys an army rather than an authentic patriotism growing from a love of God our Pater expressed in love of our homeland, our patria, willing to defend our patrimony with blood if necessary; and pays for charity rather than reducing taxes and encouraging citizens to help one another. The modernist church pays people to pray (liturgists, musicians, lay chaplains); pays people to do corporal works of mercy (pastoral associates); and pays people to raise the children (youth ministers, catechists, D'sRE).
Tradition is a healthy respect of the old coupled with affection for the young. It is the antithesis of modernism. Where modernists look warily over their shoulders, traditionalists look eagerly to the future. Where modernists scorn history, traditionalists fondly remember their common past. Where modernists battle between sexes, generations, and cultures, traditionalists are able to seek and share communion through marriage, child rearing, and the Church.
Greybeards among traditionalists teach the young to respect the old because it is good. Youngsters will respect the old because it is good - and they hope to be old themselves some day. Greybeards truly like the young because they like themselves and they recognize themselves in the young. Youngsters truly like the old because they see their origins in them and they are grateful for the opportunity to be a part of a good that has welcomed them.
The young do not fear aging. They are taught that the best of youth has little to do with physical age. Life is experienced as an ongoing gain of life. They continue to grow long after the body does so no longer. Old, the old know, is good and is the fulfillment of youth.
The old do not mourn their youth. Experience has allowed a greater appreciation of the good gained in youth. Youth finds itself enriched by the addition of years. The good of age involves ongoing interaction with youth. Youth is experienced anew as the old come to know the young and, thus, come to know youth again. Old is good, and it never loses what came with youth, but nurtures it.
Tradition is a fundamentally generous approach to and understanding of human being. It is a reflection of the generativity of the divine. God's bounty does not threaten His sense of self or His possession of being. In a way appropriate to the human, tradition offers man the opportunity to pour himself out as an unconditional gift for the benefit of those whom he loves. This gift and the act of giving are not provisional but participate in the divine will that what is brought into being through love perdures beyond the confines of the temporal, physical world. The man who believes this has no fear, no hate, no end.
Primary in this act of creation allied with the Creator is the begetting and rearing of children. The testimony to marriage, to society, to the sacramental life of the Church is the human life which each of these institutions is responsible to nurture in its own way. Families, cultures, or religions that deny, impede, or destroy human life are an affront to the divine will, themselves to be destroyed, first from within and then in the perdition of the damned.
Families, cultures, and the Catholic Church faithful to God's plan of salvation through the care of children, the succor of the poor, and fidelity to the Cross will abide with Him and with each other forever.
Modernism attempts the impossible. It desires to live in time, to be always young, and to deny antiquity and aging. These are mutually exclusive demands. To be young means to grow old. Once one has set foot in time, the only escape is through aging and death. Death either will bring a loathsome decay for those who would be bound in time or a glorious splendor for those whose time is anchored to and yearning for eternity.
Stability is the hallmark of tradition. The young brought up in a strong tradition have an awareness of a community into which they are being welcomed. There is a sense of surety about identity, expectations, and prohibitions. These provide the child with security about what is possible in his life.
This stability also is an assurance to the old within the community. They are certain that the good they have nurtured through their long lives will be carried on through the children whom they have taught the tradition. There is a sense of trust between the generations. The young can trust the old to know what is good and the old can trust the young to seek to preserve the good and help it to grow. The young have goals toward which they can direct their lives; the old can rest at the end of life, confident that their lives have been well lived.
Tradition is both old and young. It partakes of the transcendent. The Beauty who is ever ancient and ever new, God, has made His image known in man through the Church. She is endowed with the graces that flow from the Cross, through time, to the ends of the earth. She is entrusted with the mission of preaching the coming of the Kingdom of Heaven. In that Kingdom is to be found treasures both new and old (see St. Matthew 13:52). He Who is the Alpha and the Omega has promised, not to make all new things, but to make all things new (The Apocalypse 21:5). In this promise is our hope to be made truly who we are, not to be evolved eternally into things that we are not and are not meant to be. We must be in Jesus Christ, and He must be all in all (Ephesians 1:23).
Of modernism, Scripture (Psalm 1) says:
Not so the wicked, not so!
For they like winnowed chaff
Will not stand before the Judgement,
Nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous;
For the Lord knows the way of the righteous,
But the way of the wicked leads to doom!
And (Psalm 49):
How can you recite my commandments
And take my covenant on your lips,
You who despise the Law
And throw my words to the wind,
You who see a thief and go with him;
Who throw in your lot with adulterers,
Who unbridle your mouth for evil
And whose tongue is plotting crime,
You who sit and malign your brother,
And slander your own mother's son.
You do this, and should I keep silence?
Do you think that I am like you?
Of Tradition, Scripture (Psalm 91) says:
Though the wicked spring up like grass
And all who do evil thrive:
They are doomed to be eternally destroyed.
But you, Lord, are eternally on high.
See how your enemies perish;
All doers of evil are scattered.
To me you give the wild-ox's strength;
You anoint me with the purest oil.
My eyes looked in triumph on my foes;
My ears heard gladly of their fall.
The just will flourish like the palm-tree
And grow like a Lebanon cedar.
Planted in the house of the Lord
They will flourish in the courts of our God,
Still bearing fruit when they are old,
Still full of sap, still green,
To proclaim that the Lord is just;
In Him, my rock, there is no wrong!
Father Lawrence Smith