Rod Dreher, "The Evangelical Advantage" (The American Conservative, May 20, 2015), spends some time reflecting on Tracey Rowland's 2010 book, Benedict XVI: A Guide for the Perplexed. He includes the following excerpt:
For the second half of the twentieth century (especially since 1968) and the beginning of the twenty-first he has represented Catholic theology in the face of a militant secularism and various crises internally created within the Catholic Church. With respect to the latter, Philip Blosser [yes, she quotes yours truly] offered the following indictment of post-Conciliar Catholic culture:Thus far Rowland.For more than two generations now, we [Catholics] have been robbed of the fullness of Catholicism, which is our birthright. With a few thankful exceptions, our collective acquaintance with Scripture is piecemeal, our knowledge of tradition is pathetic, our hymns are embarrassing, our religious art is ugly, our churches look like UN meditation chapels, our ethics are slipshod, and our aesthetic and spiritual sensibilities are so far from being sublime that they almost look ridiculous. … For over two generations our faith formation has been shaped by a media culture that has portrayed our Church as a dinosaur that is either an impediment to social progress or simply irrelevant.Amidst this general condition of cultural poverty, Ratzinger never pursued a strategy of accommodation to the culture of modernity, as was the preferred option of so many of his generation, but he did set about … to recapture the essential spirit of Christianity. … The development of a Christian personalism, in Ratzinger’s case, one heavily indebted to St. Augustine and Guardini, has been one of the positive post-Conciliar developments helping to counterbalance Blosser’s long list of humiliating failures.
... The rise of Catholic Inc. — the model of the Church as a modern corporation — has in recent times fostered this “tragedy of a starved imagination” [the phrase is the Catholic poet Paul Claudel's]. The pneumatological dimension of the Church is constantly suppressed by people with narrow imaginations focused on figures, annual reports and mission statements. Against this contemporary sociological development Ratzinger constantly reiterates the importance of the prophetic Pauline charism and the personalist nature of Catholic welfare and community service. Ratzinger’s use of the phrase “our bureaucratized faith” and his many warnings against this tendency of the Church to ape the managerial processes of the corporate world represent an acute sociological observation about the source of pastoral problems in the contemporary Church.
Now Dreher's money quote:
My sense is that Rowland’s take on Benedict’s worldview tells us a lot of why Catholicism is failing in America (and highlights the tragedy of the brevity of the great man’s papacy). The leadership class of the Catholic Church — bishops, theologians, and so forth — “gave themselves up to modernity just as the real avant-garde was beginning to critique it. They came out of their bunkers with their hands in the air as the enemy was departing for a new battlefield. The Catholic elite of this generation was left to look effete and irrelevant.” In an effort to be relevant to modernity, they surrendered the Catholic distinctives that stood in contradiction to the currents of modernity. Thus while Catholic theology remains intact, the transmission of that theology in the lived experience of the parish — both in worship and in catechetics — has badly broken down. Paradoxically, in many parishes, a worshiper in this most sacramentally-oriented of the major American Christian churches may find himself having to hold on to the truths of his faith by exercising his will and his imagination to an extraordinary degree, because what he sees happening around him does not convey what the Church proclaims to be true.Read more >>
[Hat tip to JM]