He may not have been thinking about it at the time, but Pope Benedict, in the course of his recent U.S. visit may have dealt a knockout blow to the liberal American Catholicism that has challenged Rome since the early 1960s. He did so by speaking frankly and forcefully of his "deep shame" during his meeting with victims of the Church's sex-abuse scandal. By demonstrating that he "gets" this most visceral of issues, the pontiff may have successfully mollified a good many alienated believers — and in the process, neutralized the last great rallying point for what was once a feisty and optimistic style of progressivism.
The liberal rebellion in American Catholicism has dogged Benedict and his predecessors since the Second Vatican Council of 1962-65. [Spirit of] "Vatican II," which overhauled much of Catholic teaching and ritual, had a revolutionary impact on the Church as a whole. It enabled people to hear the Mass in their own languages; embraced the principle of religious freedom; rejected anti-semitism; and permitted Catholic scholars to grapple with modernity [and emptied the pews with all the ambiguity and namby-pambyism].
But Vatican II meant even more to a generation of devout but restless young people in the U.S. rather than a course correction, Terrence Tilley, now head of the Fordham University's theology department, wrote recently, his generation perceived "an interruption of history, a divine typhoon that left only the keel and structure of the church unchanged." They discerned in the Council a call to greater church democracy, and an assertion of individual conscience that could stand up to the authority of even the Pope. So, they battled the Vatican�s birth-control ban, its rejection of female priests and insistence on celibacy, and its authoritarianism. [That is, perceived authoritarianism. The obedient are not held captive by Holy Mother Church; rather, it is the disobedient who are held captive by the world!]
Rome pushed back, and the ensuing struggle defined a movement, whose icons included peace activist Fr. Daniel Berrigan, feminist Sister Joan Chittister, and sociologist/author Fr. Andrew Greeley [Folks who are unwelcome in an increasing number of dioceses]. Its perspectives were covered in The National Catholic Reporter, Commonweal and America [magazines the rest of us have avoided knowing how misaligned they were with Holy Mother Church]. Martin Sheen held down Hollywood, and the movement even boasted its own cheesy singing act: the St. Louis Jesuits. The reformers' premier membership organization was Call to Action [you gotta like the past tense], but their influence was felt at the highest reaches of the American Church, as sympathetic American bishops passed left-leaning statements on nuclear weapons and economic justice. Remarks Tilley, "For a couple of generations, progressivism was an [important] way to be Catholic."
Then he adds, "But I think the end of an era is here."
To some extent, liberal Catholicism has been a victim of its own success. Its positions on sex and gender issues have become commonplace in the American Church, diminishing the distinctiveness of the progressives. [The variations on what each progressive holds is wide, which reveals relativism at it's core. Jesus is Truth and that truth is unchanging. It is fixed and static, not dynamic. A red light cannot be a green light at the same time. North cannot be South. etc.] More importantly, they failed to transform the main body of the Church: John Paul II, a charismatic conservative, enjoyed the third-longest papacy in church history, and refused to budge on the left's demands; instead, he eventually swept away liberal bishops. The heads at Call to Action grayed [and so have religious orders who took up the progressive mantras], and by the late 1990s, Vatican II progressivism began to look like a self-limited Boomer moment.
Continue reading liberal Catholicism at Time...
This is a pretty good piece in Time Magazine. Another sign that things are changing is that articles like this would even appear in Time. We are seeing more "inclusiveness" of Catholics in mainstream media who are not disoriented in their doctrine. I am hoping in a few years to find that these are not the exception, but the rule.
Consider that for forty years we have had our information controlled by these progressive Catholics. Seminary bookshelves contained the teachings of McBrien and Curran, sermons promoted concepts and ideologies in them, seminars were dominated by them and even diocesan newspapers, let alone secular sources, were polluted with the content. There are folks who get their catechesis from the New York Times, CNN and NPR. I have had baptized Catholics, who went to Catholic schools, tell me that, "the Church did away with confession and the requirement to go to Mass every Sunday". My response is, "Really? Where do I find that in the Catechism?"
I credit the Catechism of the Catholic Church with educating people in the truth and lifting the ambiguities on everything from the Divinity of Christ to morality. However, I truly believe that the internet which really took off by the 1990's is to be credited. Seminarians and lay people could find truth in Vatican documents found easily on the web, along with the USCCB's negative review of McBrien's book, Catholicism. Today, no one can try to pull one over on seminarians because they are well armed, as are the laity whom I believe are using the net and other media to gain understanding of authentic Catholic teaching. Professors who try to do these things are increasingly being challenged (courageously, and we pray with charity) by those who come to class with a good understanding of the basics.
Ditto with Catholic radio and television. EWTN's work is clearly guided by the Holy Spirit, given it's global success with so little to go on (and still commercial free!). Catholic radio stations are on the rise and they are solid.
Give the faithful solid information and those clanging gongs and cymbals get tuned out.
It's important that we pray for our progressive brothers and sisters, many of whom have fallen into the ambiguous, relativistic mindset. Some truly chose to go there. But many were easily led there by a poor catechetical foundation. By the grace of God, with love, prayer and sacrifices, we can bring these Catholics home.
Te Deum Laudamus! Home