by Fr. JEAN CHARLES-ROUX
The Decomposition of Catholicism by Louis Bouyer (Sands 75p).
FR.LOUIS BOUYER, the serious and serene analyst of Cardinal Newman's spirituality and of his own evolution from the Lutheran Confession to that of Rome, has indulged, with this new little book, in a piece of pamphleteering. This does not mean however that these hundred pages or so are to be taken lightly. Far from it! • For though they slash and splash and sting and spit and scorch and sparkle all the while, they do so with such a masterly skill, with so accurate an insight, with such a wealth of knowledge, that they are to be taken as seriously in the present crisis of the Western Church, as ought to have been in the times of the Reformation, the similar writing of Erasmus. Indeed one would wish every priest and bishop to read daily this short work as if it were a lesson from his breviary.
And in this wish arc to be included the clergy too of the Church of England, since in several passages the Anglicans are quoted as examples to be imitated, particularly in the mystical quality of their approach to the Faith, and in their truly evangelical conception of poverty.
This book is composed of three essays. The first aims at unmasking one after the other the diverse illusions and follies that are, at present, bedevilling the Latin Church, and points out moreover that were one to allow this fit of fancy and confusion to last and develop one would be courting the risk of a total disintegration of Catholicism within as short a while as one single generation.
It is, indeed, not a few but all the features and characters of the Faith that are suffering nowadays, in the minds of the Bishops and the priests of some misconception. As a result there is a disruption between every one of the elements of the edifice, and the latter is threatened with a total collapse. Father Bouyer reviews most professionally and pertinently the errors and anomalies in some of the fashionable current ideas on poverty, authority, collegiality, obedience, culture, liturgy, prayer and apostleship.
He does not hesitate to criticise some of the texts of Vatican II as being partly responsible for the craziness of this crisis. His judgment, for instance, on the often quoted Gaudium et Spes, is far from being without far reaching significance.
In the second essay he traces back the present misfortunes
of the Latin Church to Lamennais. He does it with so clear and thorough a knowledge of the genesis of Catholic thought in France, Germany and Rome, that one almost comes to the 'conclusion that the personal drama of Lamennais was a sort of prophecy of what was to happen to the whole of the Catholic body. The picture he paints of the Master of La Chenais with his many generous, just and providential ideas, marred by a pathological taste for the sensational, and irrepressible and still more fatal frenzy for carrying all his views to the extreme, is, as a matter of fact, very suggestive of what is occurring in the western realms of the Papacy.
In the third essay which is the shortest, some remedies are proposed. They can be summed up in one principle: restoring a proper and responsible leadership in the Latin Church by recruiting the clergy exclusively among highly competent and hence highly educated and civilised people.
Indeed, if only the members of the Liturgical Commission had been, besides Scripture and Liturgy scholars, men of wide human culture, with that delicate flair for the plans of Providence and the soulreaction of humanity, that is derived from an intimate connection with the work of the Divine Paraclete in the successive schools of thought, poetry, music and all the arts, they would have realised that by doing away with the highest mystical masterpiece of the highest period of European civilisation, namely the Renaissance, that was the Tridentine Mass, they were removing the corner stone of the entire Latin Church.
That gone, all has 'crumbled in that part of the universal Church which was one of the main buttresses of the Holy See; and the Latin communion has found itself, all at once, deprived of its soul and identity, and segregated from the flow, the life and development of western civilisation. This means that it is henceforth out of touch with the sources where each mounting generation slakes its thirst for the highest aspirations, activities and manifestations of the heart and spirit.
The historical charecteristies of Ilim Who is the Incarnation have ensured that Christianity cannot exist without Christendom, and Christendom can only be conceived as it providentially was by Constantine. But the West has now seen its Church pass from that capitol of spiritual sovereignty and radiancy that it still enjoyed only 15 years ago under Pius X11, to the very brink of that "Tarpeian rock" whence the condemned are toppled into dishonour and death.