Why such a crisis?

If the West is Catholic Christendom, and Catholic Christianity is the truth to which all roads lead, how come the West has evidently abandoned Catholicism and Christianity?

In a way, that’s like asking “why the Fall”? Men are inconstant. They aren’t satisfied with real goods that make demands and are always the same. They want something imaginary that fits itself to their moods and vices. Today they also like to do things in an organized and comprehensive way. Why shouldn’t that apply to apostasy?

G. K. Chesterton says it’s all happened before, repeatedly. The Faith, like Christ, is of as well as beyond this world. In its worldly presence it can grow corrupt, die of old age, get murdered or crushed beyond recognition. But then like Christ it is suddenly alive again.

There’s something to that. It’s notable that you can’t get rid of Christ. He keeps coming back one way or another, and eventually people get tired of deferral and avoidance and want the whole Christ.

It’s hard to avoid the belief that the present situation is special, that the crisis goes deeper, is more comprehensive, and has penetrated ways of thinking and the institutional church more thoroughly than in the past. That may or may not be true. There’s no metric for such things, and historical comparisons are impossible for lack of evidence.

It nonetheless seems a corner has been turned. The Pope has held firm, although (from my right-wing point of view) he’s stretched things to the limit. In its triumph liberal modernity has refuted itself. It grows visibly more antihuman and irrational because it doesn’t have the resources to be a supreme governing philosophy. And all the bombshells that were going to explode historical Christianity seem to have fizzled.

Fr. Richard Neuhaus comments (toward the end of one of his immensely long rambles):

It was at a conference in the mid-eighties that I listened to Hans Kueng hold forth in triumphalist tones on the victory of the progressives. “We” control, he announced, the seminaries, the academic departments of theology, the catechetical and liturgical institutions, the publishing houses, the magazines that matter, and the chanceries. Most of the bishops, he said, are now on “our” side, and those who aren’t have been neutralized. Anyone who wants a future in the hierarchy or the Catholic academy has no choice but to cooperate, he observed. It was a clean sweep; all that was left were a few details; the disgruntled band of risibly reactionary dissidents from the new order didn’t understand what had happened and couldn’t do much about it.

As Neuhaus points out, no-one on the Catholic Left is talking that way now. They’re still in control in most places, but they’re aging in place and haa ve no successors. The initiative is on the Right.

What will happen and how we have no way of knowing. All we can do is pursue what’s right and true as best we can. And that is enough: “we know that all things work together for good to them that love God.” (Romans 8:28.)

5 thoughts on “Why such a crisis?”

  1. I hope your qualified optimism

    I hope your qualified optimism proves warranted. Surely the bishops ought to pursue what’s right and true as best they can. And no, I’m not referring to the recent sex scandals.

    The Archbishop of Chicago is an extremely intelligent man, and in public he is consistently orthodox on faith and morals. Yet, has a single local teacher of theology obtained a mandatum pursuant to Ex Corde Ecclesiae? If so, the fact hasn’t been publicized. The “AmChurch” Catholicism of Dissent prevails (almost) unchallenged in the suburban Catholic churches of which I’m aware.

    Have the Vatican and orthodox hierarchy made a prudential decision not to insist upon orthodoxy in our time, and let more time solve the problem as the dissenters diminish in number? If so, do you have an opinion as to whether this has been and continues to be the prudent course?


  2. It seems to me by

    It seems to me by and large the hierarchy is populated mostly with placeholders who don’t want any disturbances. They call it “collegiality” etc. I have no way of knowing what the thinking of any particular hierarch is. Conceivably the Pope and some others may have made such a prudential decision.

  3. “If the West is Catholic

    “If the West is Catholic Christendom, and Catholic Christianity is the truth to which all roads lead, how come the West has evidently abandoned Catholicism and Christianity?”

    Maybe because one or the other of these premises beg the question?

    I sometimes wonder if Catholicism hasn’t abandoned the West; given Trent and Vatican I, it’s harder to be Catholic now (in the sense that one is required to believe more dogmas affirmatively) than 1000 years ago. If Augustine or one of his counterparts appeared today, would he be anathema?

  4. It’s true that no argument

    It’s true that no argument is presented for the truth of the premises. You can’t do everything in one entry.

    The substantive question is whether development of dogma since 1003 or since Augustine’s time has been a series of add-ons, or whether it’s been true development that has clarified and better stated and ordered what was already believed. Looking at the Catechism it seems to me that the current system of dogma makes sense by reference to a central principle (Christ) and is not a collection of burdensome irrelevancies.

  5. If Augustine or Aquinas were

    If Augustine or Aquinas were alive today, they would believe exactly what the Church teaches. The Truth is one and whole and cannot contradict itself. Thus, there would be no impediment to their assenting to modern dogmatic teaching that was in their time still undeclared officially.

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