‘La Civiltà Cattolica’ Demolishes the “Benedict Option”

‘La Civiltà Cattolica’ Demolishes the “Benedict Option” January 22, 2018
The "Benedict Option" (Pixabay)
The “Benedict Option” (Pixabay)

Further evidence that the highest circles of the Church disapprove strongly of the “Benedict option”, the “historically-conscious antimodernist return to roots” gaining traction amongst American and European Catholic conservatives intimidated by the complexities of ‘post-Christian’ society. The influential Jesuit journal La Civiltà Cattolica ran last week a strongly-worded article in which it alleged that the Benedict option “brings the risk of an exclusive focus on moral rigidity, doctrinal purity and the reestablishment of a parallel society rather than on the construction of unity and communion within the Church and with all people of goodwill”.

In a nutshell, the label “Benedict option” refers to American conservative Rod Dreher’s call for Christians to “withdraw” from the “toxins of modern secularism” and the “fragmentation caused by relativism” and to build “churches, schools, and other institutions within which the orthodox Christian faith can survive and prosper through the flood”. Last year the director of La Civiltà Cattolica, Antonio Spadaro, denounced the “option” as a “Masada complex”, and accused those who promulgate it of exploiting a “fear of chaos”, “exaggerating disorder” and putting forth “worrying scenarios that bear no relation to reality”.

Last week’s article in La Civiltà Cattolica, however, went further. The author of the same, Andreas Gonçalves Lind, therein accuses Benedict option proponents of suffering a persecution complex: of running the risk of thinking “that our ‘small’ group is the real Church and better than the others”. Of running “the risk of arrogance linked to an ecclesial sin against unity and communion”.

In short, Gonçalves Lind indicts Benedict option practioners on a charge of Donatism: a fourth-century heresy that promoted moral rigorism and taught the invalidity of sacraments administered by apostate priests. “By opposing integer to profanus as the main difference between belonging or not to the Church, Donatists tended to admit only irreproachable members”, observes Gonçalves Lind: a disciplinarian attitude against which this author places the “patience with respect to sinners and the value of preserving communion” promoted by Saint Augustine.

“Augustine notices the arrogance of those who want to separate good people from bad people, the “just” from the “unjust,” before the opportune time”, continues the Civiltà Cattolica article. “In this context, he asks for ‘humility’, ‘patience’ and ‘tolerance’. Humility appears as a fundamental Christian virtue, without which unity and communion are not possible within the Mystical Body of Christ”: qualities all under threat in Benedict option communities made up of “strong” Christians.

Not only does the Benedict option lack humility, patience and tolerance, however, but it also reflects, in Gonçalves Lind’s opinion, a worrying “hostility toward secular institutions”.

“Although Dreher does not want the isolation of Christian communities, his Benedict option requires ‘separation’ from secular political powers and institutions, up to the point of developing our lives as far as possible within Christian institutions in which Christian entrepreneurs hire workers predominantly from their own churches”, Gonçalves Lind observes: a problematic notion insofar as it would not only “close off” Christian communities but would also deny the “importance of true dialogue, springing from that human dignity in which all liberties are grounded”.

In sum: between this arrogant, perfectionist, escapist and heretical Benedict option Christianity and what Dreher has called, responding to Gonçalves Lind, the “assimilationist ideas of modern Jesuits”, I know what I prefer. And yes, I still call myself a Christian.

Little future for the "Benedict Option", according to 'La Civiltà Cattolica' (Pixabay)
Little future for the “Benedict Option”, according to ‘La Civiltà Cattolica’ (Pixabay)

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  • Neko

    “Evangelical Fundamentalism and Catholic Integralism” and now this. I might have to start reading La Civiltà Cattolica.

    I was surprised by Lind’s vehemence, but from the way it was presented elsewhere on Patheos the Benedict Option was a way for rootless cosmopolitans to get together and bake cookies in Christ or something. Now I get it.

  • Don

    Isn’t Linds view of the “Benedict option” a misrepresentation and accusing its adherents of Donatism far fetched. Looks like arrogance also lies on Lind’s part. Berating the adherent’s of “Benedict option” without civil dialogue with them and publishing his harsh views in public forum is unchristian to say the least. It could be that adherent’s of “Benedict option” are the humble ones and don’t want to presume assimilation with the “world” won’t affect them. Is Lind even aware of the the dangers on assimilation as warned in the book of Jude or is he so presumptuous?

  • Pope Pius XII

    >influential Jesuit journal
    opinion discarded

  • Mike

    Once again Patheos flies to the defense of Our beautiful Church’s destruction…Do we have any Catholics who “know,love,and serve Jesus” at this publication? I have a very difficult time assimilating articles from this ostensibly Catholic site with anything decreed as Doctrine of the church. If you don’t agree with people living in the squalor of sin, YOU are the bad guy? How about, if you do not tell your neighbor when he is sinning you are responsible with him for his sin? If you do tell him and he persists in his wicked ways,you bear no responsibility for his actions. It’s crazy how Scripture just points the Truth right out for us.

  • Mike

    So voting for the guy who was against abortion and the destruction of the negro population(which is why abortion was created) is a sign of your noncatholicness? As a father I am very concerned with how to help my children attain their perfect end.(that is Heaven for those who are wondering) You seem to think that sacrificing all the attractions and entertainments of our hedonistic world is the greatest of follies, when in fact it may be the greatest act of valor.

  • Neko

    What?

  • Mike

    All right…I’ll try it again,Trump ran on a prolife platform and has done more to protect the unborn than any president since 1973. Abortion was established here in the USA to control the mongrel races(blacks) from overpopulating our pristine country. (see the movie MAAFA 21 for an enlightening documentary on the power of the eugenics movement in our country in the last 150 years) You insinuate that Lind is some type of dolt for feeling he can relocate his family to a less urbanized area and protect them from the wiles of the world. I salute the man for being so forward thinking and placing his children’s eternal destiny above his personal convenience.

  • Neko

    I’m pro-choice so couldn’t care less about Trump’s phony anti-abortion credentials. He panders to the evangelical base and their Catholic collaborators to stay in power. Trump is a charlatan and a travesty, but you abortion fanatics see no evil when it comes to your pet obsession.

    It’s futile to argue. What’s it to you if the world blows up as long as you get a Supreme Court pick? You imagine you’ll live forever.

  • Mike

    When you say you are prochoice, does that mean you are in favor of women having the right to kill their unborn child? Trump was for abortion years ago(when it suited him) and slept with any person he liked for most of his adult life, but he is making positive steps towards reducing the global destruction of humanity,which is euphemistically called “prochoice” but really means if a life is not convenient to you then get rid of it. I am a Catholic Christian, which means that 1/2 of my Church is a different color than I am, and I pray for and contribute to causes to feed and educate these people I will never meet, until we rejoice together in heaven. There is nothing antifeminist about welcoming a woman into the exalted realm of motherhood, the greatest hatred you can extend to a woman is to rob her of her individual privilege of bringing a new human being into the world. Why do you think we have a world full of bitter angry women? We have stolen from them the crown jewel of motherhood. No matter who you are pillorying for moving back to the tiny town from whence he came, your disdain for anyone who thinks differently than you is way over the top. Take a deep breath and reflect on what your life is about. We are here to embrace our fellow man and serve our neighbor. Infanticide,Deicide, homicide,none of these move humanity forward or bring us joy and satisfaction. I hope you find peace in your lifetime. May god’s abundant grace fill you with love and life.

  • Neko

    Really. I’m a mother, and I invite you to STFU. Don’t flatter yourself that as a Trump supporter you are any less callous toward life than the abortion doctor down the street.

    By the way, I didn’t “pillory” anyone. I called Dreher “naive.” You might want to minimize the distortions and bs.