Saturday, June 06, 2015

Rod Dreher: Why Catholicism is failing in America

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:
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.
Thus far Rowland.

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.

[Hat tip to JM]


Amateur Brain Surgeon said...

Mr. D, has found safety in a tiny schismatic and heretical sanctuary the world is too indifferent about to try and destroy. He may as well be Amish.

And, he is wrong to think about the Faith once delivered as having to do with marketing; by that accounting, Jesus was a miserable failure.

Modernism has slain masculinity and our epicene ecclesiastics do not attract real men because they are too timorous about the Truth; We do not want to offend.

Only real Catholic men can present the face of Christ to the world and attract other real men and if the world doesn't accept that, to Hell with it

Amateur Brain Surgeon said...

Dear Doc. That is a great summary of yours that was quoted.

But as far as Bishop Emeritus Ratzinger goes, it was he who killed the Holy Office and it was he, and Pope Paul VI, that surrendered to liberalism and liberty just as the enemy was arriving as its greatest strength; it was Pope Paul Vi who told the Roman Clergy that while he could exercise discipline against the enemy in extra and ad extra, he preferred to be loved and it was Cardinal Ratzinger who was in favor of tearing down the bastions.

It is all so maddening for those of us who have lived through this execrable ecclesiastical epoch for it could have been, should have been, different.

It could have been different if we had not invited the enemy within the gates and remained silent about those who invited them in - and it was even worse than remaining silent about those allies of the enemy, for we elevated them to authority.

Have y'all noticed the knee-jerk defense of anything the Bishop of Rome does? If he elevates an obvious heterodox individual or brings such a person into influence in Rome he is credited with Machiavellianism machinations; He is keeping his enemies close.

The next time you read that, ask the author of it when the Pope has raised a Catholic Traditionalist to a position of power/influence in the Prelature or in Rome and we all know that traditionalists are his enemy.

Nothing much has changed in the Hierarchy since the revolution...

And yet after all of the destruction they caused they continue to blame men like me and my ancestors who warred against the sons-of-bitches attacking the Faith.

The sons and daughters of the Roman Catholic Church turned on their very Holy Mother and arrogated authority unto themselves- to a man they were servants of Satan - and yet to his day we are routinely apologising to those heretical bastids.

Is this too churlish?

Well, prepare to hear the love bombs soon being dropped on John Hus, that most miserable miscreant who preached violent revolution against The Roman Catholic Church. Yes, we are going to apologise to that man and seek to better understand - something.

Can anyone think of another international organisation more determined to cultivate hatred of its past?

Pertinacious Papist said...

Raider Fan,

I've become aware over the years of the former Cardinal Ratzinger's mixed past, starting with his being an assistant to Bp Frings at V2. In many ways, those who love Catholic tradition look back on his pontificate with fraternal affection, particularly because of the favor he showed toward the TLM. But there other ways in which certain deficiencies showed through, a symptom of which was his love for the cosmic evolutionary vision Teilhard de Chardin sets forth in his overheated imagination.

Rowland, like many others, is enamoured of the fact that Ratzinger was Augustinian in outlook, as opposed to Thomist. There are certainly insights proper to that vision; but it is no substitute for a grounding in the Angelic Doctor promoted by Leo XIII. In fact, I think that the same weaknesses show in Rowland's writing, for all her insights.

JM said...

To a degree I am a sentimental fan of Ratzinger and some of his later work. But try reading his material around Vatican II, his 'Highlights' or his 'Introduction to Christianity,' and you realize his formative years were impacted by Modernism in ways that unfortunately lingered. The more I read and see the more I am convinced that Higher Criticism is far, far more bain than any sort of blessing for all the churches.

Pertinacious Papist said...


Agreed. If I had an academic career to do over again, I might concentrate precisely on that area, which has become a minefield for Catholics. In fact, Catholic biblical studies, generally speaking, is a weak spot, an achilles heel, of contemporary Catholic intellectual life, just as homosexuality is the weak spot in contemporary Catholic moral sentiments.