Thursday, March 23, 2023

Heroes and Villains

God doesn't seem to always draw from the same group when He sends His reformers and prophets and saints. I suspect He doesn't want any group to start assuming that their power is from themselves and their wonderful paradigms and organization. If you church is a hand this year, it may be an ear next decade. A hero in one era, a villain in the next.

At one point monasteries were funded and controlled by the local nobility, and made into comfortable homes for retirement or superfluous heirs. Other revenues for abbey or church were often taxed away--no doubt originally on reasonable grounds (common defense in dangerous eras) but eventually taken as a customary entitlement.

The abbey at Cluny spearheaded reforms (esp independence of church institutions), but after a while they got rich themselves: so that Matthew Paris could write "The above-mentioned special clerk of the lord king, whose wealth attained to episcopal heights". Francis and his example helped reform some of the greed of the church of his era, but the Franciscans have been involved in some deeply uncharitable quarrels.

Last century some of the more--shall we say--conservative churches in the US had little interest in helping deal with the invidious discrimination suffered by blacks in the US (some did), and the most well known Christian civil rights proponents were more theologically liberal. Some of the churches had accomodated themselves to the spirit of the age(s)

This century saw almost the opposite (neither conservative nor liberal seem to have had great success in persuading the youth of the value of chastity), as the liberal churches have welcomed abortion and tried to normalize perversion, while the conservative churches continue to call these evil. (On the whole; exceptions are easily found.) The paradigm of "rights" helped stop unChristian prejudice, but the same paradigm now promotes unChristian sexual immorality and killing.

The above introduction will doubtless annoy some readers.

In the early church the pressure to burn incense to the genius of the emperor could be intense, and a number gave in. When they wanted to return to the church afterwards, Novatianists said no, the lapsed members were barred. The Church said yes, they could return. The Donatists went farther later, and created their own purer bishops--creating a kind of rival denomination. Eventually they compromised, but the split endured for over a century. At least it eventually ended.

Almost a hundred years ago there developed in Germany a "German Christian" movement, accomodating the racial (decidedly non-catholic) spirit of the age, and in reaction a "Confessing Church" which opposed Nazi control of the church. (The majority didn't take either side.) I was told that at some point there were meetings of repentence and reconciliation, but I haven't found anything that clearly supports the story--all I have seen is stories of direction from outside. That's disappointing. I'd love to read that the majority church repented of their go-along and reconciled, and even more that the "German Christian" groups repented.

I suppose that once there has been a division, even after the reasons are gone, mundane concerns (like new bureaucracies) militate against reuniting--even though we praise unity. Especially if each group has historical reasons to despise the other as unfaithful to the faith.

Even having a common enemy, such as the Soviet authority, didn't seem to encourage a lot of long-term reconciliation between different denominations--although perhaps it looked different on the ground, as opposed to in the hierarchies.

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