A Crisis of Conservative Catholicism
Let’s begin with a story. It’s one I’ve heard many times; it’s one I’ve told more than a few times myself. It’s a story about the Catholic Church in the second half of the twentieth century, and it goes something like this.
Once, fifty years ago, there was an ecumenical council of the Church. Its goal was to reorient Catholicism away from its nineteenth-century fortress mentality, to open a new dialogue with the modern world, to look more deeply into the Catholic past in order to prepare for the Catholic future, and to usher in an era of evangelization and renewal.
This was not intended to be a revolutionary council, and nothing in its deliberations, documents, and reforms was meant to rewrite doctrine or Protestantize the faith. But the council’s sessions coincided with an era of social upheaval and cultural revolution in the West, and the hoped-for renewal was hijacked, in many cases, by those for whom renewal meant an accommodation to the spirit of the 1960s, and the transformation of the Church along liberal Protestant lines.
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