Everything, except God, has a context. I write this morning to contextualize yesterday’s post, which might (I realize from several emails) be misunderstood. Readers, especially outside the Catholic Church, might think I am saying everything is going to Hell, or gone, when in my experience, on balance, the Church is recovering, and promises to continue recovering. And this for reasons that, superficially, make no sense.

In particular, the quality of our priests seems to be rising; the celebration of Mass is becoming more focused, more reverent; many young are being drawn in, and those who come take the Christian teaching more seriously; the monastic movement is once again advancing, with zeal; the standard of Catholic thinking among our intellectuals is rising — albeit, in each case, from what could be described as “historical lows.” This is a gut feeling, on matters that cannot be statisticized, and need to be anecdotalized cautiously. While my observation is biased towards North American sources, I am aware through correspondents and reports of parallels in, I think, all the countries of Europe, and the wide world beyond.

Much heroic work was done by our recent popes, Saint John Paul and Benedict XVI, to rescue and defend the fabric and integrity of the institutional structure, but more than this is going on. To my mind, the Church herself, as a vast and mysterious organism, is now recovering from a period of insult and abuse that began long before Vatican II; and of which what I unfondly call “the spirit of Vatican II” was not the cause, but the fever. She is throwing off what I would characterize as the disease, of modernism, aptly described in its several aspects by popes and theologians going back to the eighteenth century. For all the principalities and powers, still wrecking from within, the “rigidity” of this structure is being restored, and usefully tested. In time, the parts not rigid are being washed away.

What Ratzinger called the “Council of the Media” indeed continues to prevail — in the noise of the media. That is, the forces for “progress” away from the Church’s Christ-given mission, towards accommodation with the vagaries of the world, retain their pride. But shocks have already come, and bigger are coming. Those whose faith is in the inevitability of this progress find themselves increasingly in the position of those who believed in the inevitability of Hillary Clinton. Not that Trump will prove any kind of godsend (let us leave for two years any judgement on his secular effect). I use this only as an analogy to what is happening at many dimensional levels, throughout the West.

It is a cliché that, “our hope is in the young.” In worldly terms, there is no other place to look. But at a time when huge proportions of our young are in despair — as evidence the mounting drug deaths — we have lost and found. I have been in a privileged position, getting glimpses of “youth movements” within the Church, through everything from “world youth days” to the students I have encountered teaching in a small seminary. Even in so apparently shallow a thing as popular music, I am struck by the revival of a capella in the cause of e.g. Christmas carols. Those looking for an escape from the oppressive materialism, the moral disorder and cynicism of modern life are — often naïvely and with many setbacks — finding it is there, and was there all along, in Jesus Christ.

The need to build families, to build neighbourhood, against all odds, is a yearning deep in human nature. It is perpetually buoyant, and rising back to the surface. With it comes the starch to resist the demonic forces run loose in our society. Mistakes, terrible mistakes, are made (how I know this from the inside!) yet, where the help of God is honestly petitioned, there is recovery.

As I say, this is the overall gut feeling, of an old pundit trying to understand what is happening around him. That the media ignore this story can hardly surprise; they deal only with surface, and characteristically misrepresent whatever they see floating there. Whereas, what I characterize is happening underneath. On balance I would say, things are actually improving — in a direction opposite the one from which we’ve come.


A dear friend — the art directrice of my former Idler magazine — had been suffering from an extended flu (perhaps the same one I have been enjoying). Sitting with her dog and her tea, she heard singing outside her house.

It was carols. “Like, real Christmas hymns.”

She lives (like me) in the middle of this city, even closer to the heart of banking Moloch.

“I looked out the window and standing around my tiny brightly lit Christmas tree, in the mass of beautiful, unsullied powdered snow, were three carollers. It was like a scene out of Dickens — except for the electric lights.”

She grabbed her little doggie, and joined them. (I should mention that this Mitzi has a glorious singing voice.) They sang together, and had a chat. She asked if they were collecting for a charity. They weren’t, they were just out carolling. They wanted to wish people a “Merry Christmas.”

This is the sort of thing.