The Benedict Option for Catholics
Rod Dreher is an amazing author and columnist. He was an Evangelical Christian who came into the Catholic Church, where he was confronted by the “Spirit of Vatican II” (a bastardization of the authentic Vatican II) and the Lavender Mafia, which promptly drove him out of the Catholic Church and into the arms of Eastern Orthodoxy. I’ve been saying for a long time that this is the natural consequence of the “Spirit of Vatican II” and the Lavender Mafia in the Catholic Church. So long as these things exist in any large form, we will continue to drive Catholics out of the Church, including converts from the Evangelical world. Dreher was one such casualty, and he admits it, but at least he didn’t return to Evangelicalism. He found himself in communion with other sacramental and liturgical Christians in the East. There are many Catholics who accuse him of schism for this, but we have to remember that what he was running away from was not the Catholic Church itself, but rather what the Catholic Church had become in the United States under the “Spirit of Vatican II” and the Lavender Mafia. Accusing the victim doesn’t address the problem. I agree that his solution was wrong, but I also recognize that this man was attacked spiritually by two elements in the US Catholic Church that are not “Catholic” at all. I blame him no more than I blame the victims of sexual abuse. Dreher was a victim of spiritual abuse, which as an Evangelical convert to Catholicism myself (through Anglicanism), I understand just how traumatic and degrading that can be. I suspect my brief history as an Anglican prepared me to endure this sort of spiritual abuse. Mr. Dreher was not so prepared himself. If you think his is an isolated incident, you’ve got your eyes closed. Thousands of Evangelical converts have left the Catholic Church because of the Lavender Mafia and the “Spirit of Vatican II” alongside an uncountable number of cradle Catholics who can no longer tolerate it. Whenever a federal RICO investigation hits the US Catholic Church, those numbers will go up exponentially.
Dreher’s unfortunate spiritual casualty as a former Catholic does not in any way diminish his writings on religion and politics, which are not only very traditional in nature, but also very timely for our day. He’s an accomplished author and columnists with uncanny insight and cryptic realism, filled both with a terrifying forecast for our generation and electrifying hope for future generations. Dreher’s masterpiece “The Benedict Option” is directed toward a specific audience, particularly Evangelicals, who need every word of his advice if they want to survive in the days ahead. For Catholics, however, most especially Traditional Catholics (like many of the readers of this blog) I do recommend his book for your library (get it here), but for us, his advice can be synthesized and summarized into a single essay, which I am about to do.
Traditional Catholics are an extremely fortunate bunch, according to Dreher’s analysis, which he doesn’t directly say, but is clearly implied throughout the book. We already have at least half of Dreher’s prescription complete and in operation as you read this. Evangelicals, on the other hand, are screwed. They need to rebuild their communities from scratch almost, and rethink how they do pretty much everything. The dark days coming to the West (including the United States) will practically destroy them in every way, unless they change. Likewise, the US Catholic Church will be devastated as well, but only insofar as some parishes and dioceses have tried to imitate mainstream Protestantism in worship, practice and teaching. However, those parishes and jurisdictions that have clung to Traditional Catholicism stand a fighting chance, and with only one major modification, might not only survive but actually thrive in the coming storm.
As Traditional Catholics, we already have the liturgical and sacramental understanding of the Christian faith that Dreher recommends in The Benedict Option. He spends a large portion of his book recommending exactly what Traditional Catholics already have. He does so, in a non-specific way of course, not recommending conversion of Evangelicals to either Catholicism or Orthodoxy, but rather recommending that they become more like Traditional Catholics or Orthodox in the way they conduct their worship and teaching. Essentially, he’s advocating a more liturgical and sacramental form of Evangelicalism, which God only knows if they can accomplish on their own. (I seriously have my doubts.) That, however, should be of little concern to Traditional Catholics, who already have everything Dreher recommends as necessary to weather the coming storm. There is only one thing Traditional Catholics lack that would complete The Benedict Option package in full.
To understand what we Traditional Catholics lack, we must first understand the nature of the coming storm that will take the West completely off-guard in the very near future. The storm of which I’m speaking is the collapse of Secular Modernism, which will initially take the form of political, economic and social tyranny against Christianity. The political Left, as they have come to be called, is dying. It’s actually in a self-destruct stage right now. However, it will not go down without a fight, and it will not die without taking as many people down with it as possible. Such is the nature of the political Left, a nature of self-destruction and destruction of everything around it. It is, in a metaphorical sense, like a child throwing a temper-tantrum once he realizes he can’t have what he wants. He thrashes his body about, hurting himself and breaking everything around him. Secular Modernists would prefer a scorched-earth to admitting defeat, and so a policy of scorched-earth is exactly what they will pursue in the days ahead. Their first order of business is already in motion, which is to force Christians to comply with the agenda of sexual perversion. Already Christian businesses are being sued, fined and criminally prosecuted in some cases, for refusing to participate in same-sex weddings or “misgendering” transsexuals. Christian doctors, nurses, pharmacists and healthcare practitioners are already being told they cannot refuse assistance in abortion and/or euthanasia. Resistance could result in termination of employment, losing one’s license, lawsuits and even criminal prosecution. Granted, most of these government persecutions are in Canada, Australia and Europe, but we are seeing them move into certain portions of the United States, and threatening to spread. Under the Obama administration, we already saw Christian churches, organizations and businesses ordered to provide contraception regardless of their religious beliefs about it, resulting in endless lawsuits and legal battles all the way up to the United States Supreme Court. We’ve seen Christian bakers run out of business by courts, simply for refusing to bake same-sex wedding cakes. Healthcare workers, particularly on the West Coast, are increasingly finding they have no legal protection for providing medications and medical procedures that violate their religious conscience. All of this is just the beginning of sorrows. The fury of the political Left, Secular Modernists, will only increase in the months and years ahead. It will reach its zenith when Christians not only in Europe, Canada and Oceania, but also the United States as well, have difficulty doing such simple things as opening bank accounts, and finding employment, because they will be marginalized and demonized by the political Left, the entertainment industry and the mainstream news media. Alas, I repeat myself, for they are all one in the same.
In these dark days, not far away from us now, it will be difficult to maintain a church that upholds traditional morality. For resistance will not only come from within, but it will come from the outside as well. Increasingly, good pastors will find themselves under pressure from Leftists within their churches who want them fired, and the Leftist protesters outside their churches who want to see them publicly shamed and destroyed. Yes, there will be violence against any Christian church that doesn’t surrender to the Leftist agenda. We can expect church vandalism and burning. This is already going on in France, and the contagion will spread throughout Europe and into the Americas. Leftists will ally themselves with radical Islamists too. Why? Because that’s what they’ve always done. I know it doesn’t make any sense, but it really doesn’t have too, because it never did. Leftists love Islamists. I cannot explain why, but they’ve always given Muslims a free pass on everything they persecute Christians for. So when it comes to Islamists who want to kill Christians and burn down Christian churches, the Leftists will join Islamists in saying “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.”
During this time, not so far away now, mainline Protestant churches will join with the Leftist agenda. Evangelical churches throughout the country will either succumb to the Leftist agenda, and those that do not will scatter and go underground. We won’t see or hear much from them again until after this storm is over. They’ll resist hard at first, and then just disappear once the government turns against them. Many of them are already preparing for this eventuality with so-called “life groups” or “cell groups” wherein megachurches are sponsoring dozens to hundreds of little home communities within their larger megachurch community. They meet once a week in their homes, perhaps a dozen adults with children, usually on a week night. Then on Sunday mornings and Wednesday nights, they have their traditional megachurch gatherings at the main facility. Most non-Evangelicals don’t even realize this is going on, but when the time comes, these Evangelical megachurches, will be able to easily go underground like the flip of a switch. They’ll just disappear. The megachurch building will be sold off as a convention center, and that’s it. Just like that, those Evangelicals who refuse to give into the political Left will disappear off the radar. They will become scattered and isolated, neighborhood, house churches. Once a week, we’ll see a group of cars gather on a street, people going in and out of a particular house, and within an hour or two they’ll just disappear as quickly as they appeared. There won’t be any church bells, no loud music, no advertisement or yard signs, nothing. As far as the public is concerned, it could have just as easily been a Tupperware or Mary Kay meeting. Evangelicalism will have gone underground. We won’t see or hear from them again until after the storm is over.
The mainstream Catholic Church, on the other hand, is in serious trouble. Catholic parishes and dioceses that have for decades tried to imitate mainline Protestantism, will find themselves under tremendous political and social pressure to completely succumb to the Secular Modernist agenda of the political Left. Most will do so without a fight, as a great number of them are already in that mode of thinking now. Traditional Catholics, on the other hand, will be the last remaining societal bulwark against the storm of the political Left (Secular Modernism). This is why The Benedict Option is necessary. It contains the final ingredient we need to survive and thrive in the storm.
The United States of America, as we know it, will not survive the coming storm. The culture war is over, and we lost. The election of Donald J. Trump to the presidency is not a sign of the revival of traditional Christian values. It is, rather, a grace that has been provided by God, perhaps at the intercession of Our Lady, to postpone the coming storm in the United States long enough for us all to get ready. One only need to look north to Canada to see the trajectory of North American society. It’s over. Our culture is lost. Our society is dead. California, Oregon, Washington, Florida, Illinois, Minnesota and New England are examples of what will soon befall the entire United States. Granted, some areas of the Union will fair better than others in this social collapse. The Bible Belt will surely be more hospitable for Christians than other places in America, but it won’t be totally immune from some of the negative effects. What will become of America’s political Union remains to be seen. A Convention of States (US Constitution, Article V) is definitely in the works. While there are currently no plans for it to provide constitutional amendments for the breakup of the Union, that could change once the circumstances in America do. Politics may be the least of our concerns though, as social hostility toward Traditional Catholics increases to cancerous levels. Priests and bishops may not be able to wear their clerical garbs in public anymore, due to random acts of violence against them. Parish buildings may need to be guarded by armed men during Mass and other Church functions. It would be wise, in the coming years, for the Knights of Columbus to develop a paramilitary wing to provide this kind of security. If they won’t do it, however, I think the time has come to form a religious fraternity of men who will. I highly recommend coordinating with local police and veterans for training. I also recommend that priests and bishops wise-up to the growing threat, and encourage some older and mature men to conceal-and-carry in the chapel during mass, strictly for the purpose of protecting women, children and the clergy in the event of a church shooting. I know this goes against the hippy ideals of the 1970s, but those days are long-gone now. This is the 21st century, and the list of crazies, who want to literally kill Catholics, is growing.
So now that we understand what the coming storm is, we also need to understand that like all storms (physical and metaphorical) it will come to an end. What awaits us on the other side is a much more sober world, having endured the collapse of Secular Modernism, it will once again see the value of Christianity. This is the world in which Pope Saint John Paul II spoke of as the “springtime of evangelization.” It’s coming, but we must get there first, and what we do to survive the storm will be the very same thing that prepares us to re-evangelize the world!
Contrary to popular misconception, The Benedict Option is not a call to run to the hills and live like the Amish. It’s actually the complete opposite. It’s a call to make some radical changes to the way we think and live, but being Amish isn’t one of them. The first call is to stop thinking like culture warriors. That war is over and we lost. We cannot salvage the Christendom of Western Civilization. It’s already crumbling and it’s going to completely collapse, just like ancient Rome did. It cannot be saved anymore, and it’s arguable if it ever really could be. The Protestant Reformation and Enlightenment set the West on a course that would eventually lead to its demise. Modernism and Marxism sealed the deal. The goal of Christians shouldn’t be trying to save the old civilization, but rather, creating a whole new one.
Dreher hearkens back to St. Benedict of Nursia as our guide and model. The premise for Traditional Catholics is simple. We cannot be scattered. We cannot be spread out. We must physically move close to the Traditional parishes in which we worship, and begin developing a Traditional Catholic colony there. It must be a colony built around the Traditional parish, where members are the local shop owners, businessmen, policemen, firemen, teachers, doctors, nurses, lawyers and city councilmen. Ours is a call to colonization of small cities and towns, as well as neighborhoods within larger cities. When people drive past our parishes, they won’t say “there is a Traditional Catholic parish” but rather “this is a Traditional Catholic area!”
By creating such a colony, we create an environment in which to live and raise our children, and also a stronghold that will be difficult for legal authorities to break and ideological crazies to invade. Look at the Muslims in Dearborn, Michigan. They are doing just that, and it’s working well for them. They now control most of the city, and have made a stronghold that is difficult for anyone to unlock. Dearborn, Michigan is an Islamic city, and everyone knows that now. While Shariah Law is not officially on the books in Dearborn, it is quietly enforced (in a subtle way) on the streets. Dearborn will remain a Muslim stronghold for the rest of this generation, and well into the next, if not indefinitely. The Muslims understand the concept of colonization. Why can’t Traditional Catholics do the same? We most certainly can, and we have in a few places already. St. Mary’s, Kansas is one such example of a well-established Traditional Catholic colony. Neighborhoods in Kansas City are likewise colonized by Traditional Catholics as well. There is no reason why this model can’t be repeated elsewhere, and it should be. I’m thinking specifically of any town, or city neighborhood, where a Divine Worship Mass (DWM) or Traditional Latin Mass (TLM) (click links to find one) is well established. These are colonial outposts, calling for us to move in and take over the surrounding streets, blocks and neighborhoods. Will we respond to the call? Or will we remain isolated and become casualties of the coming storm? Are we Traditional Catholics willing to do for the truth, what Muslims are willing to do for a lie?
Such colonies will provide the spiritual strength we need to engage a hostile world in the days ahead, and such colonies will grow during the coming storm. They will provide the springboard we need, a launching point, not only to resist the advances of the political Left, but also to do missionary outreaches into their own territory. Then, after the storm has passed, such colonies will become the new religious centers of North America and Europe. Like the Benedictine monasteries of the first millennium, we will re-evangelize and build a new Christian civilization from these colonies when the time comes. It’s a recipe for survival in the short-term, and success in the long-term. Nobody can make it happen, except for us. That’s The Benedict Option for Catholics, especially Traditional Catholics, who won’t need to be called “Traditional Catholics” in the distant future, simply because when that day comes, we’ll be the only Catholics left.