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Reasons For Hope

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By SHAUN KENNEY

With all the problems going on in the Catholic Church today — perceived and otherwise — it is perhaps useful to take stock of the things that are going well.
For instance, the permanent diaconate is a wonderful start. The diaconate a much older institution than the priesthood, coming from a time when bishops themselves were able to conduct the Holy Mass while deacons, subdeacons, “deaconesses” (which were really equivalent to a prioress of nuns and don’t let anyone tell you different), religious brothers and sisters, and a host of laity performed the charitable and at times sacramental work of the Church. This sacramental work was limited to deacons, of course, and limited to what in modern parlance was to “hatch, match, and dispatch” — or in other words, to confer the Sacraments of Baptism, Marriage, and Last Rites.
At no point in time in salvation history have we had more deacons than today.
Right now, despite the “vocations crisis” in the Western world, in places such as Africa and Asia, the vocations crisis takes on a different form: how to build the seminaries fast enough. Right now, there are over 415,000 priests in the world — more than at any other point in time in salvation history.
The same is true for our bishops. We have more active bishops — 5,304 to be exact — in active ministry right now than at any other point in time in salvation history.
This is critically important for any number of reasons, but most importantly because these bishops can create new priests — and in that respect, we have over 116,000 new seminarians actively exploring a priestly vocation. Over a five-year average? At no other point in salvation history have we seen this many vocations being explored.
Now we come to the fun part — the Church Militant. Right now, there are over 1.3 billion professed Catholics around the world. One in six, to be clear. Both as a percentage of the human race and as a raw number of human beings, at no other point in time in salvation history has the Catholic Church enjoyed so wide a membership.
Yet that’s not all! How do you become a Catholic nominally? Of course, one has to accept baptism, which is a mark that cannot be erased and is enjoyed by Protestant, Orthodox, and other varying Christian traditions. So the grand total of souls claimed for the Catholic Faith? 2.3 billion.
At no other time in salvation history have there been so many individual souls marked indelibly with the Sacrament of Baptism.
Right now, the Catholic Church has opened more hospitals, more colleges, more clinics, more schools, more parishes, more refugee camps, more shelters, feeds more indigent populations, visits more prisoners and advocates on behalf of the unspoken more today than at any other time in salvation history.
Full stop and pause for just a moment.
Set aside all of the scandal for just a moment and imagine the Catholic Church as she is, not as how the press and the world would want her to be perceived. Consider what we would imagine her to be in holiness, and reflect on how truly amazing all of these gifts — both spiritual and temporal — truly are.
Granted, in the Catholic West, it can seem as if Christendom is falling apart. Scandals, persecutions, and even calumnies from within seem to be waging war against the Body of Christ.
Yet in perspective, there is no small wonder why the Catholic Church is under such attack — we are growing, and not only are we growing, but more souls today than at any other point in time in salvation history are enjoying the protection, prayers, and charitable works of the Catholic Church.

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President Trump announced a unilateral withdrawal of U.S. forces from Syria, a move that might surprise most Americans given the fact that our involvement has been rather clandestine as of late.
Of course, I am very much of the “if you break it, you buy it” mentality when it comes to nation states. The policy of democratic uprisings in Libya, Egypt, Syria, and the Ukraine hasn’t brought a flowering of democracy in the slightest — just refugees and casualties.
Yet it is noteworthy to mention that the Catholic Church will still be on the ground in Iraq and Syria, piecing together the lives of those who were savaged by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) long after the terrorists and warfighters have left the region.
Now just imagine if we had taken the resources spent killing one another and used them to build up the lives of the Iraqis and Syrians. A monopoly on peace would have been far more preferable than a monopoly on force.

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Cultural Marxism seems to be in vogue again. The idea was first put forward in a “long telegram” from the late Paul Weyrich in 1999, co-founder of the Heritage Foundation and founder of the Free Congress Foundation (which is still kicking and focused largely on pushing the Trump tax reforms through Congress).
Weyrich offered two critiques in his letter. First and foremost, that political correctness was nothing more than the efforts of a small elite to knuckle down traditional norms.
Second and perhaps most alarming, Weyrich correctly predicted that we had lost the culture war, that whatever perceived gains we might achieve in politics were forfeited because conservatives and traditionalists — and by the latter, we mean a broad based commitment to the Chestertonian democracy of the dead — had effectively bowed out of civil society, thus conceding our institutions to the political left.
Growing up in the 1990s, one remembers a time when PC culture run amok was met with the best weapon in the Generation X arsenal: cynicism. Whatever and Ever Amen was our anthem, and the concept of social justice warriors receded like bad dreams of the Great Depression, never to happen again in our lifetimes.
Oops.
As an antidote, Weyrich proposed the antithesis of turn on, tune in, drop out. Effectively, Weyrich recommended turning off your television and computer (in an era before social media, no less), tuning out Western pop culture and creating spaces for stillness or leisure . . . and then he stopped. Dropping in and competing for Western institutions — education, media, and so forth — was a bridge that Weyrich wasn’t quite willing to cross 20 years ago. Rather, Weyrich was an early advocate a sort of Benedict Option, an idea he would flesh out in his last book The Next Conservatism before he tragically passed away in 2008.
Naturally, Weyrich has been defamed in the public square as a litany of horribles by the very people who clutched their pearls and insisted that Cultural Marxism never existed. Yet fast forward 20 years, and it seems as if Weyrich was more prophet than prognosticator whose work deserves a rehabilitation two decades on.

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As always, First Teachers welcomes letters from our amazing readers. Please feel free to send any correspondence for First Teachers to Shaun Kenney, c/o First Teachers, 5289 Venable Road, Kents Store, Virginia 23084 — or if it is easier, simply send me an e-mail with First Teachers in the subject line to: svk2cr@virginia.edu

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Right now the most likely path toward reform in the Church-- intervention of government authority-- could lead to disaster. If only a “morally intrepid few” bishops, here and in Rome, could call for and make public acts of repentance, we might yet avoid that danger.

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