Rorate Caeli

“What is ‘indietrism’ (backwardness) anyway?”—Michael Charlier

Just in case you live on an island of the blessed and haven't figured out what "indietrism" is yet: it's supposed to mean something like backwardness or restorationism. With this expression, invented by himself, our holy stepfather refers to all Catholics who adhere to the Apostolic Tradition and ecclesiastical tradition even where it does not fit into his Jesuit frame -- and that is quite a lot of it.

So if you, dear reader, are not visiting this website for the first time, but -- alone or with others, several times or even habitually -- then you only have to look in the mirror and you will be looking into the face of an indietrist! Consequently, according to Francis, you belong to the greatest danger that threatens "today's Church": to the sinister forces that "oppose modernity." Or in our reading: you are one of those who, against all odds, keep the right course or at least make the greatest effort.

"Modernity" -- however Hegel or Marx may have seen progress in detail -- as the orientation point or guiding star of the Church, with resistance to it as the main sin: you somehow have to come up with that idea first. In doing so one not only rejects the millennium and a half tradition of the Roman liturgy, one calls into question the whole teaching that Christ entrusted to his apostles, the essential content of which has always been not to reject the "law" but to "fulfill" it and to oppose the "prince of this world" -- today gladly trivialized as the "spirit of the age".

And even among Jesuits, it should have become known by now that "modernity" has brought into the world not only penicillin and the possibility of peaceful use of atomic forces, but also doctrines which, with the supposed abolition of natural bisexuality and an ever more unapologetic heading towards nuclear war, call into question the continued existence of mankind. And the fact that the Church of Christ -- let us leave aside Africa, of which we know too little -- is in a state of stagnation, decline, and fall on all continents, since it has surrendered more than a few of its fingers to modernity at the failed pastoral council of the last century, can also only be overlooked by those who, in their blind progressivism, have long since lost contact with reality, both natural and supernatural.

To describe the phenomenon mentioned in connection with the current pontificate and other ecclesiastical facts is, understandably, still considered unseemly in wide circles of the Church. We are therefore all the more grateful to Carl Trueman, who, in a highly readable contribution on First Things ("Transgression is Passé"), has analyzed an important secular aspect of this development: the addiction to always and everywhere transgress boundaries set by God or nature, in the delusional idea that this will finally redeem the promise of the old serpent: "You will be like God and recognize (better: determine) what is good and what is evil."

Trueman begins his reflections with a recourse to Friedrich Nietzsche's famous "God is dead -- we have murdered him." And he suggests that what was a cry of terror in Nietzsche's day is now more of a shout of jubilation from those marching (as they think) at the forefront of progress. To illustrate this, he draws on the exhibition currently being held in the European "Parliament" with pictures by LGBT ideologue Elisabeth Olson, who, like so many before her, once again believes she knows better what Jesus would preach today: precisely her LGBT gospel. Trueman is less concerned with addressing LGBT ideology and propaganda per se, the rejection of which he assumes in his readers. Instead, he concentrates on pointing out the poverty and the plaintiveness of a Zeitgeist-unculture that believes it can still cause a stir with "transgressions", when all borders have long since been officially put up for disposal -- including the annual free choice of gender in the identity card.

One of his conclusions:

Philip Rieff coined the term deathwork to refer to those works of art that waged war on a culture by using the idioms of the sacred in order to destroy the sacred. It is tempting to accuse the E.U. of promoting just such deathwork in this exhibition of our contemporary world’s sexual fetishes. But that would be to flatter both the artist and the art. This is not a deathwork, for what it mocks is already dead. Rather, it is emblematic of the vacuum that has replaced Western culture. Such art says nothing new because it is part of a culture that has nothing to say. All it can do is rehash the images of a religious past and flatter itself that in doing so it is tearing down an oppressive power structure.

I can largely agree with this; Pope John Paul II and then-Cardinal Ratzinger anticipated much of this analysis with their concept of the culture of death (Evangelium Vitae of 1995). But the diagnosis: "This is not a deathwork, for what it mocks is already dead" seems a bit premature, a bit too absolute. Or, after all, should the Church of Progress, proclaimed by many after the last Council (and apparently reaffirmed with Bergoglio's election), also consider the faith it once professed dead and done with?

Trueman, by the way, would not necessarily have had to resort to the European Parliament for his reflections. An art exhibition quite similar in tendency -- only with paintings instead of photos -- took place at about the same time in the Paulist Church in New York: abominations of the spirit of the times in a holy place, and not only in the truly dead EU Parliament in Brussels. Nothing has become known about the fact that the bishop in charge objected to the actions of the otherwise extremely progressive fathers. Only the outcry of the faithful, who, presumably as an indietristic minority, still exist in New York, put an end to this scandal.

Meanwhile, the Roman scandal called Paglia continues unabated, and this does not surprise us a bit. The archbishop, who was promoted to the highest Curia offices under Popes Benedict and Francis may be accused of all sorts of things, but he is certainly not guilty of the new "cardinal sin" of indietrism -- that is, of clinging to what has always been valid and believed.

Michael Charlier
May 12, 2023