Charlie Broadway Has a Healthy Instinct

Charlie Broadway Has a Healthy Instinct October 17, 2013

to just stick with the sanity of the Church and not pledge allegiance to our increasingly insane political tribes.

More like this guy, please.  Especially since he gives me an excuse to quote one of my favorite passages from Chesterton’s Orthodoxy, a rebuke to our lunatic age and an endlessly refreshing fountain of sanity:

The Church could not afford to swerve a hair’s breadth on some things if she was to continue her great and daring experiment of the irregular equilibrium. Once let one idea become less powerful and some other idea would become too powerful. It was no flock of sheep the Christian shepherd was leading, but a herd of bulls and tigers, of terrible ideals and devouring doctrines, each one of them strong enough to turn to a false religion and lay waste the world. Remember that the Church went in specifically for dangerous ideas; she was a lion tamer. The idea of birth through a Holy Spirit, of the death of a divine being, of the forgiveness of sins, or the fulfilment of prophecies, are ideas which, any one can see, need but a touch to turn them into something blasphemous or ferocious. The smallest link was let drop by the artificers of the Mediterranean, and the lion of ancestral pessimism burst his chain in the forgotten forests of the north. Of these theological equalisations I have to speak afterwards. Here it is enough to notice that if some small mistake were made in doctrine, huge blunders might be made in human happiness. A sentence phrased wrong about the nature of symbolism would have broken all the best statues in Europe. A slip in the definitions might stop all the dances; might wither all the Christmas trees or break all the Easter eggs. Doctrines had to be defined within strict limits, even in order that man might enjoy general human liberties. The Church had to be careful, if only that the world might be careless.

This is the thrilling romance of Orthodoxy. People have fallen into a foolish habit of speaking of orthodoxy as something heavy, humdrum, and safe. There never was anything so perilous or so exciting as orthodoxy. It was sanity: and to be sane is more dramatic than to be mad. It was the equilibrium of a man behind madly rushing horses, seeming to stoop this way and to sway that, yet in every attitude having the grace of statuary and the accuracy of arithmetic. The Church in its early days went fierce and fast with any warhorse; yet it is utterly unhistoric to say that she merely went mad along one idea, like a vulgar fanaticism. She swerved to left and right, so exactly as to avoid enormous obstacles. She left on one hand the huge bulk of Arianism, buttressed by all the worldly powers to make Christianity too worldly. The next instant she was swerving to avoid an orientalism, which would have made it too unworldly. The orthodox Church never took the tame course or accepted the conventions; the orthodox Church was never respectable. It would have been easier to have accepted the earthly power of the Arians. It would have been easy, in the Calvinistic seventeenth century, to fall into the bottomless pit of predestination. It is easy to be a madman: it is easy to be a heretic. It is always easy to let the age have its head; the difficult thing is to keep one’s own. It is always easy to be a modernist; as it is easy to be a snob. To have fallen into any of those open traps of error and exaggeration which fashion after fashion and sect after sect set along the historic path of Christendom–that would indeed have been simple. It is always simple to fall; there are an infinity of angles at which one falls, only one at which one stands. To have fallen into any one of the fads from Gnosticism to Christian Science would indeed have been obvious and tame. But to have avoided them all has been one whirling adventure; and in my vision the heavenly chariot flies thundering through the ages, the dull heresies sprawling and prostrate, the wild truth reeling but erect.


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  • Faithr

    Wonderful! Couldn’t have said it better myself. Three cheers for Charlie!

  • Dave G.

    At least he wants to make it official and declare the Middle an official tribe. Heh. Really, I used to think like that. I used to say that the problems were the two extremes. The Right and Left. That’s the popular narrative (though usually in our culture, the Right is the bigger mischief). The problem with that thinking is it’s not too far from the famous prayer that goes something like this: God, I thank you that I am not like other people: tribalists, Righties, Lefties – and even this reactionary.’ Not that there aren’t legitimate criticisms of various folks who could be wrong about things. But I can never, ever forget that I might be just as prone to shaping the Church or the Faith to my own personal biases and preferences just the same. Some of my stances may be less to do with untarnished obedience to Holy Mother Church, but simply the result of who I am or what I prefer in the first place. So maybe there would be something good from coming out of the closet and declaring the non-extreme middle to be its own official brand. Something worth trying I’m sure.

    • Chesire11

      Amen! I agree with his description of the faults afflicting the Church from the left and the right, but I still object to a narrow conception of the Church as being limited to those who merit inclusion. None of us merit inclusion in the Mystical Body, we are part of it out of divine grace which is offered to saint and sinner alike. The Church NEEDS conservative traditionalists, and it NEEDS passionate liberals. The middle needs to welcome them, help to correct their errors – as they reprove our own – and pursue lives of ongoing conversion together.

  • ivan_the_mad

    Heh, I like it in large part. Certainly one could argue or quibble about his categorizations and nomenclature as too simplistic, inaccurate etc, but that ignores the takeaway point. Accepting all of the Church teachings and striving to live them in building the Kingdom is the happy middle, and in that sense we certainly have a middling pope 🙂

  • JasperBuck

    Simply outstanding and inspiring. Wow.

    “Vatican II did not create the Left, the Right, and the Middle. What it did do was expose who was who.”

    “As for me, I love Pope Francis. He has the spirit of Christ, and you know he is the real deal from his fruit. Francis represents what an authentic Christian and a Catholic should be. I doubt Francis will settle the conflict in the Church, but he settles the debate for me.”

    A Recovering Right-wing, whack-job, Cath… No, just sign me:
    A sinner

  • capaxdei

    Charlie Broadway writes that “most Catholics”:

    * “affirm Church teachings on … contraception, abortion, and homosexuality.”
    * “care about … the Church’s theology and devotional life”
    * “tend to be non-partisan in their political viewpoints recognizing that neither the
    Democrats nor the Republicans are in line with all of Church teachings.”
    * “are represented best by someone like Mother Angelica and the folks at EWTN, Father Robert Barron, the National Catholic Register, and the outstanding Cardinal Sean O’Malley.”

    Are any of these statements true?

    • ivan_the_mad

      Maybe for his sample size? I suspect that what he’s driving at is the middle consists of the Catholic who accepts the Church per se and seeks to conform to it, rather than trying to conform the Church to himself.

    • I had the exact same thought. And is EWTN as “middle” as he says? I don’t watch it, but I’ve heard some (maybe even on this blog?) accuse it of being a little bit too cozy with the Republicans here in the US.

      • ivan_the_mad

        “too cozy with the Republicans here in the US” I think there’s some truth to this. I think the same of the KofC (of which I’m a member). It’s not (always) blatant, but there’s definitely a wink and a nod.

        • Chesire11

          Some of Father Pacwa’s asides slip into partisan politics, and pretty much anything that comes out of Raymond Arroyo’s mouth sounds like it was penned by the rNC. We need to take the example of what liberal politicization has done to the faith as a cautionary tale against repeating the assault from the right. We need to be IN the world, but not OF it – and CERTAINLY not of secular political ideologies!

          • ivan_the_mad

            Yes, I’ve been rather unimpressed with Arroyo.

            • Marthe Lépine

              I very occasionally watch EWTN on line, and one night I tuned in during an interview with some economist from the Acton Institute. It very much sounded closer to the neo-liberal “conception of man as nothing more than an economic actor”… Not so much in those specific words, but in the general acceptance of a “right” wing concept of economics as being the “superior” one. Plus, I was shocked by the attitude of the economist being interviewed towards an “european” concept of economics that was all wrong, in the man’s words… I am not a citizen of the US, so maybe I don’t see things in the correct way, but what I was hearing did sound more in line with Republican talking points than Democratic.

        • jaybird1951

          Maybe that “coziness” is a result of the fact that the present-day Democrat party makes it nearly impossible for a serious Catholic to vote for them and be true to the faith and its teachings. I know, I know. The GOP has its own glaring faults but it does come closer (note I said closer, not ideally) to Catholic teaching on several very important moral issues (abortion, same-sex ‘marriage,’ the family etc.). I used to be a Democrat until the 1970s as were all my immediate family. That is no longer the case as all four of us siblings vote GOP, in no small part, because we have no other choice. The Democrats at the national level and often at the local and state levels have taken unacceptable positions. Mark refuses to vote for either but I do not feel that is an acceptable choice for me.

          • Chesire11

            I was just corresponding with a friend about this very subject. My opinion on the matter is that these issues (abortion, same-sex unions, etc…) are symptomatic of a deeper cultural malady. Unless and until that ailment is addressed, nothing in the political, or legal arenas will have anything but superficial effect on the reality of abortion, and the decline of marriage and families.

            The fundamental struggle is much deeper, and requires a forceful assertion of the dignity of the human person against a reductionist, materialist conception of man as nothing more than an economic actor – a producer, and a consumer of goods. On this, the field of decision, neither political party is on the side of the angels, but the republican Party is so compromised, and so mendacious that, for all of its lip service to “family, and traditional values,” I cannot imagine any way in which it can effectively press the case. The Democrats, for all of their folly, and preening, self-congratulatory vanity, and despite their misguided conception of human dignity are at least faithful to the notion of human dignity. The former is pure on the margins, but corrupt at its heart, while the latter are, if not pure, at least presentable at heart, but badly tarnished on the surface. You might say that it is far easier to baptize a pagan than it is to reform a heretic.

            In the end, however, it is sheer folly to expect either political parties or the political process to cure either the symptoms, or the disease. They cannot, and will not, nor will human efforts alone prevail. Our hope must lie with the intercession of Our Lady, against whose purity and maternity, our culture most sorely offends. Ultimately a prayer to her will prove more effective than an election, and a rosary more potent than a law.

            Holy Mother, pray for us!

          • ivan_the_mad

            You are of course entitled to your judgement in the matter. I do not share it in the least, especially your first sentence.

          • ganganelli

            I am exactly the opposite. My voting history is Bush, Dole, Bush, Kerry, Obama, Obama.

            The reason I support the Democratic Party now is that they are much closer to Church teaching on social justice issues. Furthermore, I don’t see how voting to cut food stamps to women who are most likely to abort will bring about less abortion.

    • Chesire11

      Well, he’s right in his assessment of Sean Cardinal O’Malley. With everything else, he seems to be speaking more aspirationally than descriptively.

  • sbark

    My issue with the article is that it somewhat portrays Catholicism as a political view. IMO, the Church is made up of people who follow Church teaching to varying degrees. It is true that there are Catholics on the political left and the political right who dissent from some teachings. However, I don’t think that means that Catholics who accept Church teaching are in the middle.

  • capaxdei

    As long as we’re “speaking more aspirationally than descriptively,” let me propose that we start distinguishing Catholics by their willingness to follow Jesus, rather than to follow Church teaching. We can’t follow Jesus without following Church teaching, but we can — and many of us do — follow a proper subset of Church teaching without following Jesus. I’d certainly score myself higher as a follower of Church precepts than as a follower of Jesus Christ, which maybe makes me a better Catholic than Presbyterian, but so what?

    I’m not denying that distinctions among Catholics *can* be made based on how they relate to different subsets of Catholic teaching. I’m saying those distinctions are secondary, maybe even accidental, to Catholicism. For too long Catholicism has been understood — by Catholics and non-Catholics alike — in terms of adherence to these or those doctrines. What Catholicism *is* is adherence to Jesus Christ.

    If we start talking that way, we might start acting that way, and who knows what the Holy Spirit might do in the world if a billion people start taking adherence to Jesus Christ seriously.