Saturday, 23 May 2009

On the importance of feasting and fasting: when Jansenism rules...

Fr Blake of St Mary Magdalen has written a brilliant post on one of the root causes of the horrors chronicled in the Irish Report, viz Jansenism. It is a heritage Australians and North Americans have unfortunately inherited, and traces of it can still be found amongst traditionalist priests and laity.

The importance of joy

So I think his piece is worth reproducing and reflecting on:

"The bleakness of the Irish institutions where abuse took place seems to reflects the theology of those who ran them. There is no Baroque exuberance, no time of festivity, just grinding tedium, where the norm is fast and penance mitigated by an occasional feast which is itself yet another penitential act. [A lack of joy in other words. One of the problems of traditionalism is the tendency to try and overcompensate for the problems of modern theology and practice. No asceticism left in the world - we'll make up for it. No sense of sin - we'll make sure ours is very well developed indeed! Sometimes we need to move beyond 'working out our salvation in fear and trembling' and focus on the good things God has given us now as signs of the world to come, practicing the virtue of hope.]

The pictures of these institutions show no sign of the Catholic sun shining, and black tea is served instead of good red wine, [I've heard sermons by traddie priests condemning the demon drink even in the form of an occasional glass with dinner!] there is indeed only Calvinist gloom. One simply can’t imagine a sense of festival that is more than an empty mouthing of the Gloria in these grim mills.

People have suggested that Jansenism lies behind the appalling accounts of dehumanisation and abuse. What type of anthropology lies behind Jansenism?

There is a heightened sense of sin, sin which cannot be overcome, but only beaten into semi-containment. There is a division of humanity into the saved and the damned, with the majority being damned. There is a tendency to see the poor, the weak as being damned, or at the very least as being beyond the influence of grace. [As far as I can see most Oz traddie communities do not do much charitable work as a community beyond assisting members of their own communities. Perhaps overcompensation again for the modern push on social justice? Perhaps lingering Jansenism?] Victims are damned, abusers are damned.

Grace is given so sparingly, by a God who is mean with both love and Grace, and man, he is made in the same niggardly image.

God is not merciful and forgiving but full of anger and rage, swift to condemn, waiting to punish. The wounds of the Son are not salvific but condemnatory, both victims and abusers are left without hope, the hell of now is but a foretaste of the hell to come. It is in this image man is created.

A low mass mentality

One has the vision of Jansenist liturgy celebrated perfunctorily in a damp chapel, poorly furnished with no joy, with no expense, with no understanding, with a mistrust of any movement of the heart. One is left with a vision of liturgy neither touching, nor being touched, by the divine. In the Usus Antiquior low Mass in every sense and in the Usus Recentior functionary anthropocentricity. [There are quite a few Australian Latin Mass communities that rarely or never see a Solemn Mass for example.]

The rhythm of the Churches Liturgy, of Feast and Fast, [see my post on this subject from last year] is supposed to give us an insight into God, it is suppose to save a fallen world. It is meant to give us to celebrate what God has made us. In the Liturgy we join with our brothers and sister, the saints, united with God himself but if our theology of Gods has gone awry then so does understanding of man and so does our worship.

The phrase “Save the Liturgy, Save the World” is not a platitude or an empty slogan, the Liturgy forms our understanding of God, of the Church, of ourselves and of our neighbour. The Liturgy has become in the last 40 years reflective of what is deep inside of us, but in the first millennium the liturgy formed those who took part in it, hence in northern Europe monastic liturgists were the great missioners."


Anonymous said...

It is also significant that where Jansenism triumphed in the Latin countries, it ended up in mass apostasy (at least of the men, but in France, where Jansenism raged the most hotly, entire districts became de-christianised, and ripe for 1789).

Sadly, the typical SSPX or FSSP seminary seems to continue the grand traditions of Jansenism in some ways, according to both my, and others' first-hand experiences.

The grip of Jansenism was so vice-like, that even those who opposed its theological errors were still influenced by it in practice, it would seem.

Well, it seems to me that the counter-reformed Irish church was far more corrupt than the late mediaeval one.

+ Wolsey

Peter said...

An interesting article.

And against this backdrop of rigidity, no wonder the floodgates opened to all manner of (public) excess from the 1960s on.

I recall stories from my aunt of her contempories from Irish families who were expected to enter the priesthood or the convent, no ifs, no buts, not a vocation but a fate.

And in the end, we have a grisly mess, where any good these men may have done is turned to ashes.

matthias said...

strewth, this is a hardhitting and honest article,which should be made available in the mainstream media.
Jansenism is the Catholic version of Calvinism ,and if you look at an ultra calvinist and jansenists you will see just a little difference. Afterall apartheid was the political outworking of ultra calvinism.
My brother had a friend who was a Calvinist preacher in a city church- he wondered why his church did not grow. i could tell him'Calvinism/Jasenism turns people from being God Lovers into God fearers
Sadly ,because of many years of sinful behaviour by Church workers,many people will miss out on the joy that I see in Catholic Christianity