In the opening paragraph of his article, A New Generation of Theologians, Ryan N.S. Topping, D. Phil., sums up the reason why I have hope for the future of the Church.
Much of the animosity felt by older theologians toward the Vatican or, more generally, toward episcopal authority, has disappeared. Such skirmishes that do occasionally play out the old ‘free-thinking theologian’ versus the ‘heavy-handed bishop’ script simply bore. To young eyes media events dramatizing the conflict between freedom and authority look tired, and to be a pastime for the retiring. (A case in point is the recent vitriolic over the Bishops’ censure of Elizabeth Johnson’s Quest for the Living God.) By contrast, the majority of young Catholic philosophers and theologians that I have met through my teaching—in England, Canada, and America—are eager to serve the Church, to imbibe her customs, and to perpetuate her faith. For the most part, where frustration is felt it is not at being restricted by authority; it is at not being confidently commissioned. Being a bishop is not for cowards. Failure of episcopal leadership in the post-Vatican II era has typically not been in the clumsy exercise of power, but in their reluctance to support those who defend authentic Catholic teaching. This trend is passing.
Speaking of the attitude of younger theologians and philosphers, I agree that the trend is passing. While there is still some reluctance among the bishops yet as Topping describes, I see that trend passing too. Note, that I did not say, that it has passed.
This is why you won't see me getting all up in arms the way I might have 10 or 15 years ago. In fact, I don't think that nonsense would have survived for as long as did had there been an internet and new media the way we have it today.
Often times I've reflected on those seminary libraries during 70's to 90's, many of which were stocked with books full of namby-pambyism masquerading as Catholicism. Young men back then were dependent on whomever fed them information. They could not just hop on a computer and see what the Pope just said 6 hours ago, 6 months ago, or even 6 years ago. It all depended on who was in control and what they wanted controlled. Today, when the Pope speaks, his words are up on the web within minutes and it's rapidly translated into other languages. In fact, it's not uncommon for the Pope's words to get out before the Pope speaks these days. Other than those living oppresive countries with some heavy technology controls, no one can block it (not that they would be "intolerant")
Young Catholics enthusiastic about the faith are absorbing Pope Benedict's words like thirsty sponges. They are also spending serious time studying the Church Fathers and Doctors, and getting to know Church documents intimately, not casually in such a way as to get a perverted sense of what is being communicated. Some older Catholics are tickled pink to finally see it happening, and many in the middle are leaning more with this group in getting annoyed with a dwindling, aging group who continue to press dissidence over assent. Even St. Paul had his own thorn to deal with. This new generation of Catholics has vigor to learn what the Church teaches because they want to live it and pass it on, rather than challenge it.
While the world around us is more secularized and ready to persecute Christians, especially Catholics, these days, I also see a very strong Church emerging. It's still small, but I see it growing. Deo gratias!
To an era controlled by stodgy, anti-ecclesial dissidency....
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