Neo-Christianity, a complete lack of transmission of the faith

Par l'abbé Claude Barthe

Français, italiano

The most devastating aspect of the society crisis of the 1960’s (Council, Crisis of May 1968 in France) was the interruption or, at least, the drastic decrease of transmission and, first of all, in Catholicism. First, some of the young Catholics ceased to be Catholic, then some of the children of those who remained Catholic (equipped with a very poor catechism) have stayed on the sideline, and so on and so forth, the succession of generations amplifying the dual phenomenon of desertion and, for those who remained in the Church, of religious illiteracy. A bishop who was an auxiliary of Rome told us of his astonishment discovering that a certain number of children enrolled in Catholic schools in his area, schools headed by religious congregations, did not know elementary prayers nor… how to make the sign of the cross.

In our January issue, we spoke of the theorized reflection of this situation by ultra-liberal theologies which represent as many currents in today’s neo-Catholicism[1]. We pointed out that supporters of these theologies were not satisfied with the reforms pursued by the most progressive conciliar actors: “The time for reforms is over, now is the time for a radical rupture”, said Fr. José Maria Virgil[2].

A Belgian Dominican, Dominique Collin, born in 1975, in charge of the student chaplaincy in Liège, Belgium, PhD candidate and researcher at the Centre Sèvres, in Paris, a representative of these theology of limits, develops the same theme: “Certainly, we can always modify such and such ecclesiastical structure, solve such and such abuse, revise such and such canonical provision, reorganize the Roman Curia: all these ‘reforms’, though they might seem necessary at times, remain incidental in regards to the ultimate signification of Christianity. I ask the question: can a reform be more than just a revampment?”[3]

The advantage of these Catholic thinkers, advocates for excess, is that in pushing to the limits the ideologies which preceded them, they actually shed new lights on them, and in this case it applies to all those set free in the agitation of the  Council of Vatican II.

“Tabula rasa” for tradition

The project of tabula rasa in regards to tradition, a project common to all the advanced forces of progressivism, can never be totally applied because it would render insignificant the religious content of the message which is by necessity traditional in essence.

The thinking of Fr. Collin, presented in his many conferences and two recently published books,  Le christianisme nexiste pas encore[4] and L’Évangile inouï[5], finds its inspiration specially in the critic of Kierkegaard against the Lutheran Church established in Denmark. Kierkegaard wanted to do away with the “lie” found in the predication of Christianity by this particular Church, a lie to the extent that, according to him, the mission of the priests only consisted in preventing Christianity from existing.

Along the same line, not as aggressive as Kierkegaard, but with a more anarchist tone, Dominique Collin explains that historic and cultural Christianity, the one that fosters a sense of belonging, certainly continues to proclaim the Gospel but forgets to proclaim it as Gospel, that is as – evangélion, good news – to the point that one would be in his own right to replace the euphoric prefix eû, good, by the prefix dys, bad, difficult. This type of Christianity, with its sense of belonging, would be thus preaching a “dysangelion”, a message characterized as unexciting for our time.

Like often, this type of argument carries a bit of salutary truth: it is quite true that conformist Catholicism always had the tendency to put the good news under the bushel. But here, it is Catholicism itself that is being shattered by Dominique Collin’s radical narrative. No reference to tradition, whether it be living tradition or evolving, is worth anything to him: “Christianity cannot be master of its living tradition; it only has the knowledge of the presently possible. […] One example is in the Catholic Church experiencing a crisis of Her ministries because She tries to fit a mould which is formed by Her history instead of asking Herself if the service of the Kingdom does not allow for new ministries.”[6] As a result, D. Collin prefers to talk of “deaconry”, though without becoming aware that he then refers, whether he likes it or not, to a tradition of ministries. Even more so when he speaks of Christ as “event of the word”, of whom he says that the historic existence is of little importance, but of which he affirms we have nonetheless kept a “vivid memory.”[7]

The clichés of liberal theologies

The theme of the quasi disappearance of Christianity, of its non-existence hailed as a chance, is nothing new. Except that D. Collin writes “non-existance”, which signifies that Christianity has not begun and that it remains to be accomplished. A chance, because instead of getting exhausted by the mission of “bringing in” non-Christians (which is all the more vain that there is no in nor out), this non-existance allows for the opportunity to show them, at whatever level they are, how the Gospel invents a way to exist differently;” a chance because there’s no more trying to modernize Christianity since it is now definitively outdated; a chance for the ecumenical movement as well because the non-existance of Christianity makes the Christian indifferent to the forms in which Christianity institutionalizes itself.”

Has the Christian word become estrange to the man of today? Good, Alleluia! “From now on, and because the time makes it inaudible, if the Gospel speaks, it will be only through listening how amazing it is,” that is to say not because the supernatural knowledge it delivers but through the event its audience represents[8].

The rejection of all objectivity is, also, a classical theme. The thing religious is a discovery of the self placed in front of itself in Self, a discovery which is therapeutic and exhilarating, since the self was, till then, inhabited by the anguish to exist (Kierkegaardian anguish). “The Gospel presents itself in this way: it is like a mirror reflecting the Self, most of the time invisible to the eye since we never see our double… […] The more this reflection takes place, the more the joy increases in me. Then, not only do I understand that the text understands me – and this is already the source of joy – but moreover, I am able to understand myself as a Self, oriented towards joy.”[9] For, Christianity does not give everyone the possibility to become better, but only to finally exist. “The movement which, in this way, correlates the self to the self that is in God, ‘as God intended’, is the movement by which the individual recognizes that the self is offered to him under the condition of receiving it!”[10] What does it matter what saint Paul has said: “For we preach not ourselves, but Jesus Christ our Lord (2 Cor 4, 5).”

We will also not be surprised to find in the work of D. Collin, once again pushed to its limits, the relativization of Dogma and Moral.

Relativization of Dogma, because “the Gospel is doctrine free.” Indeed, “even if our time no longer acknowledges any theological certitudes, it remains convinced that the Gospel was only useful to make known mysterious religious beliefs, now largely outdated.” In fact, the gospel message has a totally different function: it has for effect an ecstasy while facing both the unexpected and that which is amazing. This message is completely opposite to the reception of a dogmatic system “closed and self-referential which, eventually, can spare itself from listening to the Gospel,” all this “indoctrination” being ordered “by an aspiration towards a nothingness,” since it neglects listening and liberty.

Dominique Collin has, for that matter, foreseen our naive objection: “One would say: Doesn’t the Gospel reveal beliefs that are as fundamental as the Trinity or the Incarnation? I answer: Do these beliefs, as such, exist in the New Testament?” And thus conceding twenty centuries of understanding of Scriptures that, all in all, the theologic activity which has produced these beliefs is “for that matter legitimate”. Readily adding that this knowledge (unverifiable!) teaches us nothing on God, which is actually unimportant from the moment that only “the belief which proceeds from trust” counts, since the belief is trusting in the word in which I recognize the truth of my desire to be Self.”[11] And therefore, there is no point to ask the question on the existence of God. God is Word, a word which calls me to exist: therefore it makes more sense asking the question of God as my authorization to exist. We could add: …which authorizes God to exist.

As to the relativization of Moral, it is rather obvious, especially since nowadays the moral the Church teaches is discredited: “The end of moral is a liberation from the Gospel since the Gospel relates to a certain Life ethic (an ethic which therefore is not subject to religious preoccupations: in this sense, there is no Christian ethic). […] The evangelic ethic has no other perspective than the one which, out of Life, make us become alive.”[12] There is no Christian moral, there’s Life instead! Nihil novi

To the point of insignificance

Thus, we would vainly look in such a theology a discourse on God which reveals himself, or on the evangelic Beatitudes, rather than in the most striped down religious generalities. “The ‘Kingdom’ is, because of its unobjectionable and undefinable character (as for any metaphor), the only ‘object’ of faith which does not deprive us of our faith. One, thus, must say that the ‘content’ of faith is the Kingdom and that this content cannot be represented. [… It is] not only the sense of the substance of the life of Christians but also of all human beings since the Kingdom does not designate anything specifically religious.”[13] The watering down of Christianity in a type of humanism (“We too, in fact, we more than others, have the cult of man”, address of Paul VI at the closing of Vatican II) is pushed, here, to its limits.

In fact, it is useless to seek the Kingdom in the second coming of Christ, as advent, for it is ad venire, to come, that is to say already given and only to be discovered. Since there is no sin, but only “ambiguities” regarding Life, the discovery of the Kingdom consists in passing from the imaginary, which we use to hold for reality, to real life. But then, what about the God who makes Himself man and dies on the Cross for our sins? “It is when Christianity started to forget the reality of the Kingdom that it substituted the discourse on redemption for the one of the manifestation (epiphany).”[14]

In short, the “good news” of neo-Christianity for men of today is the disappearance of the announcement of the Redemption.

Father Claude Barthe

[1] “The progressive dive of Catholicism into nothing”.

[2] 8 October 2020, pp. 7-8.

[3] Le christianisme nexiste pas encore (Christianity does not exist yet), Salvatore, p 46.

[4] Christianity does not exist yet, French edition, Salvator, 2018.

[5] Amazing Gospel, French edition, Salvator, 2020.

[6] Le christianisme nexiste pas encore, op. cit., p. 48.

[7] Le christianisme n’existe pas encore, op. cit., p.34.

[8] L’Évangile inouï, op. cit., p. 14.

[9] L’Évangile inouï, op. cit., pp. 114, 116.

[10] Le christianisme n’existe pas encore, op. cit., p.149.

[11] Le christianisme nexiste pas encore, op. cit., pp.96, 97.

[12] L’Évangile inouï, op. cit., pp. 138,139.

[13] Le christianisme nexiste pas encore, op. cit., p. 174.

[14] Le christianisme nexiste pas encore, op. cit., p. 175.