Friday, October 14, 2016

Protest and Reform: Part 2

---Disclosure:  These are the thoughts of a practicing Roman Catholic who attends Mass every Sunday and sits in the back pews.---

A discussion of the Protestant Reformation is incomplete unless it also discusses the Roman Catholic Church's response.  This essay will focus on the portions of the Counter Reformation that, with the benefit of hindsight, proved to be most effective.  Had the Roman Church implemented these changes BEFORE 1517, there is a very good chance that the Protestant Reformation not have happened or the severity would have been greatly reduced.

End of Denial
Perhaps the biggest miracle is that the Roman Catholic Church was able to push aside denial and recognize that they had major issues to deal with.

In many cases, the Church was able to pinpoint issues and implement effective countermeasures.

Printed Bibles
The Church recognized the futility of closing the barn door after the horse got out.  The Church responded by commissioning the translation and printing of Bibles in the major "vernacular" languages of Europe.

This was critical because very slight changes in translation or the omission of content can result in extremely large differences in practice.

Divested wealth
Much of the Roman Church's wealth was divested due to liberating armies.  Other wealth was given to kings and armies that loyally defended the Roman Church.  Those transfers of wealth were outside of the Church's control.

When things settled down, the Roman Church adopted the practice of selling property to release it back to the economy.  Even things like the artwork in the Vatican...most of it is not top-tier artwork.

Even to this day, the businesses that the Roman Catholic Church engages in, like running hospitals, are not profit oriented ventures but social agencies to discharge our Christian mission.

This is probably the single biggest thing that the Roman Church could have done to prevent Europe from going off like a grenade in a phone booth.

Applied intellectual vigor to theology
"Bad" theology proliferated because religion, as practiced, was a product of its time and culture.  Specifically, religion was treated like another trade Guild.  They just did not know any better.

A tradesman casting belt buckles was able to cast belt buckles suitable for holding up a pair of trousers without needing profound knowledge of metallurgy, heat treatment or toxicology.  Consequently, the state of the art either stagnated or slowly evolved in unpredictable directions as journeymen trained apprentices.  For instance, sword makers came to believe that the best way to heat treat a blade was to heat it to lemon yellow and then run it through a slave's chest.  The stronger the slave the better the blade.

Part of the Counter Reformation involved the Council of Trent where theology was discussed and something very much like "peer review" purged the finished product of sloppy theology and resulted in a coherent theology with a single, standardized message.

Standardized processes for training Priests
Before the Council of Trent every parish/diocese had evolved their own process for selecting priests.  For example, in the absence of any other considerations, minimizing the opportunity cost to the community would entail nominating the asthmatic, near-sighted klutz to be the priest.  That would entail the minimum loss of the village's fishing, farming and woodcutting capacity.

One of the outcomes of the Counter Reformation was to impose standards on the applicants; example, they ought to be capable of learning to read.
One concern that some early Church fathers had regarding Paul was the possibility that he might be deviating from the truth during his missions.
Another outcome was to drill them on the theological niceties that came out of the Council of Trent.  It was no longer acceptable to "wing it" and make up stuff as you went along.

A side trip into Theology
The Roman Church's position on "Penance" and "Works" required a higher degree of training because it involved some subtlety.  In short, the Church contended that Faith and Works are Siamese twins.  They coexist and are inseparable.  It is a whole-person, non-reductive perspective.  The terms "words" and "values" are functional equivalents in the secular world.

Confessions were valid only when the person confessing was both contrite and firmly committed to changing behaviors.  "Selling of indulgences" came to an end.

Comparison and Contrast to today

Denial
The power elites think everything is fine.  They appear immune to cognitive dissonance.  They have no reason to change direction.

Wealth
The power elites are still black holes, vacuuming up all wealth and power that crosses their gravitational field.

I see no trend that might soften or ameliorate coming conflict.

Coherent message
From Alinsky's Rules for Radicals
  • Ridicule is man's most potent weapon
  • Use different tactics and actions and use all events of the period.
  • Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, polarize it. 
While the Roman Church consolidated its positions, pruned off bad practices and became more coherent, today's radicals are diverging.  They operate by releasing operatives who function as free ranging hit-bots that destroy targets of opportunity.  Hit-bots are not a leadership style.  Hit-bots are agents of chaos and scorched earth.

Again, I see no trend that might soften or ameliorate coming conflict.

Synchronizing words, values and actions
Those who offer themselves as our leaders despise us.  They mouth words of compassion in public and privately promise their cronies our property, our health and our hearts.

Again, no reason to hope.

Pray always.  Test everything.  Keep what is good.  Avoid evil.

2 comments:

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