Prelude to Disaster: Bureaucracy

The priesthood is generally not seen as a path for masculine men.  Part of clericalism creating an artificial chasm between the priests and the laity was the mental image of priests as sexless eunuchs.  Either they were holy and “above sex” or they were freaks who apparently lacked interest in it.  In many cases, this assumption turned out to be as far from the truth as humanly imaginable.  That did not stop it from fermenting and proliferating for the better part of five hundred years.

The masculinity within masculine men despises bureaucracy.  If something can be done, why must we dot all the “i’s” and cross the “t’s”?  Why should we care that our pants are soiled when the enemy is charging bayonets drawn?  If the house is on fire, why is it important that I exit through the door instead of the window?

In short, we tend to like things straightforward and have no use for pettifoggery.  A man obsessed with tiny details and with no concept of the big picture can be looked down upon as one who is not a “Man of Action”.  Mind you, taken to extremes, this mentality and lead to hero-worship of abominable hypermasculine “idols” whether fictional or real.

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A bureaucrat, as we think of him, is the antithesis of this.  He is one whose entire job seemingly prevents things from getting done.  He lacks the brilliance of a scientist or mathematician, the wit of a good writer, the strength of a brave soldier, or the grit of – say – an Alaskan fisherman.

Look at the Church as it stands, with the Vatican full of various cliques, intrigues, and secret factions. Can the average Catholic even name what each office in the Vatican actually does without looking it up?  When you think of your bishop do you think of a fiery heretic-punching St. Nicholas or a passive soft-spoken bank clerk?

And we wonder why vocations are low and interest in the priesthood is nonexistent among many men.

It is not the place of this post to discuss how and why it happened.  Podles (I recommend you all read his “The Church Impotent”), Hull, and others have documented that quite well.   It is another point to keep in mind as I continue to post towards the disaster we all know too well.

I will leave you with a quote from Louis Bouyer’s “The Catholic Church in Crisis”.

This excellent Archbishop Lefebvre gave the name of “Saint Pius X” to his seminary and to the pious association on which it depends. Confronted by such innocence one finds oneself repeating the famous words “O Sancta simplicitas!” I used to be good friends with one of the most distinguished (though under a yokel’s exterior) Church historians—I even succeeded to him in his chair—and who used to say, inter pocula of course:“Pius X took advantage of the unhoped-for opportunity provided by the separation of Church and State to reduce the French clergy to a state of impoverishment, and of the opportunity provided by Modernism to condemn it to ignorance, and of both to have imbeciles govern it! All of this because he feared, with what verged on obsession, that Gallicanism might return! Some day, which is perhaps not far off, we’ll see how much this will cost us, and then Rome will be the first to kick itself for it!” . . . This of course was only a quip. But a French bishop to whom no one would apply that quip’s last and harshest part, and who knew it first-hand just as I did, recently told me: “That old fox was sharper than he looked, and he put his big fat finger right on the sore spot! . . .”

It is well known that Gallicanism, which had been traditional in France until the end of the Ancien Régime, condemned itself to death when it produced the Civil Constitution of the Clergy as a kind of swansong . . . . Mind you, it didn’t only contain abominations, whatever the nineteenth century Ultramontanist historians may have said. For instance, if the prescription that the bishop should also be the cathedral’s pastor and effectively fulfill that function had ever been implemented, it might have kept us from reaching the point where we are today! Whatever the case may be in this instance as in a few others, the reaction was inevitable, and there arose an overcompensating exaltation of pontifical sovereignty. Once again, the French were its principle artisans—although the most “intransigent” of them all, Lamennais, was not long getting hit by its first and hardest aftershocks. One may think, along with Newman, that under such conditions it was a signal proof of Providence guiding the Church that the 1870 definition of Papal infallibility was nevertheless set in such relatively prudent and moderate terms. But after that a wave of unthinking enthusiasm, which was nowhere as swollen as it was in France, lifted up to the heavens the Popes’ authority with such overdone toadyism that even such solid heads as those of Leo XIII or Pius XI, to mention only them, had some excuse for appearing a little intoxicated by it. As the great liberal historian Lord Acton used to say: “All power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” After all that, the Holy Ghost must truly have “assisted”, as we say, the Popes in a very special way for them not to have completely yielded to the vertigo that had turned the divinized Caesars into such pitiful idols. But, in France especially, we have only ourselves to blame if an all too human prudence led the popes to such perhaps exaggerated precautions for such a fickle people, which had raised them to the Capitol after thinking that it had permanently dethroned them, not to run the risk at its next turnabout of flinging them off the Tarpeian rock . . . In any event, the results are there for all to see.

At the end of the day, our bishops, who endlessly whine about Archbishop Lefebvre and his “Lefebvrists,” do just what is needed to insure his recruitment and prestige . . . simply by doing nothing at all of what the good People of God expects of its bishops. And they do nothing of the sort because they were formed (?) and chosen for precisely that purpose . . . .

Afterword:  The Anglicans have had at least as bad of an image problem as the Roman Church even with married clergy.  Watch enough BBC miniseries and you’ll see what I mean.


7 thoughts on “Prelude to Disaster: Bureaucracy

    • Practically. He’s saying that the French Church had bishops who were picked because they were soft and compliant (Malachi Martin even states this in passing like everyone already knows it in the Firing Line episode discussing the new Pope John Paul I). This is not a French-only phenomenon either, as the American Church has had far too many bishops that are/were confrontation-avoiding paper pushers. This played a huge part in their reaction (or lack thereof) to pederasty in the priesthood.

      For whatever reason, the Polish church had less of a problem with this and produced prelates like Stefan Wyszyński.


      • So, I think that I know now the nature of the dark topic that you will be talking about. I am interested in how this series will turn out.

        Do you think that circumstances in France, or even the circumstances in Rome, left the popes little to no choice? Or are the circumstances in France solely the doing of Rome itself?


      • The circumstances n France are special. France was a “problem child” for a while (Gallicanism, Jansenism, the corrupt clergy supporting the Revolution en masse, and then the Modernists under Leo XIII and Pius X) so Rome tried to ensure they wouldn’t be in the future. The result was a weak, leftist, and cowardly episcopate. The American clergy is a result of Americanism combined with obsessive ultramontanism among other things. Unfortunately, I cannot speak for many other countries.


      • “The result was a weak, leftist, and cowardly episcopate.”

        And in France, as in America, it paved a road that led to Francis, a road whose ultimate sad end should have been foreseen in the dizzyingly fast turnabout of so many French prelates from hidebound conservatives in the 1950’s to jacobinic enthusiasts even before the end of the Council. They would blow with the Roman wind however it blew. And they still do.

        Well, within a generation there won’t really be any of them left to blow, on present trends.


    • It’s more like France had a long history of problematic/rebellious clergy and the popes wanted a French clergy that would not cause problems and be obedient. The unintended result was a weak clergy that was susceptible to the latest errors when Rome could not be the omnipresent big brother Pius IX envisioned.

      This dynamic is part of the reason Lefebrve was so reluctant to challenge anything from Rome until pushed to the brink.


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