Any Catholic paying attention to the news recently should be angry. I am not talking about an untamed emotion, but righteous anger. With the sexual abuse revelations in Pennsylvania and the exposing of Cardinal McCarrick as a serial pedophile/sexual abuser, it is clear that the time for reform is now. But the reform will not happen unless good Catholic men — laity and clerics alike — stand up and demand it. The time for action is now.
I am writing this post to share the recent thoughts of Aaron M. Renn, author of a popular Christian email publication, The Masculinist. If you are not subscribed to The Masculinist, you are missing out on interesting and in-depth analysis regarding the challenges facing Christian men today. (Subscribe here: https://www.urbanophile.com/masculinist/)
In his most recent edition, Renn (building on the work of A.O. Hirschman) discusses how the major methods to reform are “voice” (meaning protest and attempt to reform by appealing to authority) and “exit” (withdrawing from an institution and “voting with your feet”). These are the primary methods of responding to corrupt institutions and signaling a need for reform. Renn describes these as “defensive” tactics. Renn goes on to add another dimension of “attacking” tactics, leading to the following matrix of reform:
The “reform” quadrant is essentially “voice”; “withdraw and restart” is “exit”. With the addition of “attack” options, there is also “capture and replace” and “destroy and delegitimize.” “Capture and replace” is an attempt to reassert control over institutions by becoming more involved and gaining positions of influence therein. “Destroy and delegitimize” is to withdraw but to attack the institution while leaving.
Renn’s insights here are important because they give us a way to plan our actions. How are we going to reform the Catholic Church? We cannot withdraw or destroy. Exit is not an option, because if we believe the Church is the Bride of Christ, we cannot abandon it.
Therefore, we need to consider reform or capture and replace. Remember that reform under Renn’s model entails raising voices to those currently in power. This is necessary, but has this been effective? Is there any evidence that the Church hierarchy (or at least the dominant types like McCarrick, Wuerl, and Cupich) are going to respond? Reeling from these allegations in 2018 (decades after the last deleterious scandal), it is difficult to believe reform (voice) alone will make a difference.
Moreover, consider that reform is defensive. Renn believes that defensive strategies are not viable in the long run. Talking about the infiltration of the Presbyterian church, he writes:
By contrast, the modernists engaged in total war. They were aggressive intellectually. They attacked in writing from without. They pursued internal takeovers of every board, presbytery, seminary, etc. from within. They made use of lies (the “crossed fingers” of North’s title). They used financial threats (e.g., pension loss) to neuter opponents, and expelled the recalcitrant like Machen. They had big money donors (e.g., John D. Rockefeller, Jr.) and the establishment behind them, at the time when there was a very powerful WASP establishment in America.
A purely Defend strategy only seems to work if you don’t have a battle with a rival movement.
We should consider how the Catholic Church reached this current state. Dark forces have acted very methodically over decades to capture and replace faithful, orthodox leaders with modernists. This is especially true on issues of sexual morality, which undoubtedly has contributed to the current crisis.
Good Catholic men need to consider how we will reform the Church. Sometimes the best defense is a good offense. We need to be taking concrete, strategic steps to ensure that we can recapture our Church. It is time to cleanse the Temple.