What progressive liberalism and now secular progressive liberalism is doing and has done to Catholic families, institutions and the Church in general. Is there a way out? Stay tuned:
Archbishop Elden Curtiss, then leader of the Omaha, Neb., diocese, suggested that when dioceses are unambiguous and allow a minimum of dissent about the male, celibate priesthood, more candidates answer the call to the priesthood. Our preliminary research on the correlates of priestly ordinations reveals that the dioceses with the largest numbers of new priests are led by courageous bishops with faithful and inspirational vocations offices.
Leadership and adherence to church doctrine certainly distinguish the bishop of Lincoln, the Most Rev. Fabian Bruskewitz. He made national news in 1996 when he stated that members of dissident Catholic groups including Call to Action and Catholics for Choice had automatically excommunicated themselves from the church.
Cardinal Francis George, the longtime leader of the Chicago archdiocese, once gave a homily that startled the faithful by pronouncing liberal Catholicism "an exhausted project . . . parasitical on a substance that no longer exists." Declaring that Catholics are at a "turning point" in the life of the church in this country, the cardinal concluded that the bishops must stand as a "reality check for the apostolic faith."
My editorializing: But how did we get to the point that many in the Catholic Church's intelligentsia (elitist academics, aging "spirit of Vatican II" clergy and religious and aging former hippie Catholics) helped and are helping to promote a Catholic Church that resembles the Episcopal Church, which we all know is imploding upon itself, and they continue to want to make the Catholic Church more like the Episcopal Church despite its decline and fall?
The first area of the Church that progressive Catholicism in the "spirit of Vatican II" that took by tornado velocity religious life, specifically women's orders. At the beginning the intentions were very good and these women religious were following what they believed to be Vatican II's call for them to update. And updating was needed for many of these orders. They were asked to go back to their original constitutions and update.
The first wave of renewal for them which took place around 1966 seem relatively benign and quite healthy. Habits that really were not meant for street use were modified and made more comfortable. Community living was made a bit more comfortable.
But then in the late 1960's and 70's these religious women turned to secular psychologists who basically helped them to turn everything upside-down and turn their religious communities away from a communal way of life and specific apostolates into a bunch of bachelorettes striving for fierce independence, self-actualization and living alone in apartments. Traditionally minded sisters became disgusted which what their orders were becoming and left the convent. Sisters living alone fell in love and got married.
These sisters also abandoned their traditional apostolates of teaching, nursing and social work to do their own thing sometimes working secular jobs that paid well to provide money for their orders. They abandoned their habits and became so secular that most girls and women could not tell any difference between what a religious woman's lifestyle was compared to their own and thus these women who might have had a vocation to religious life saw no point in joining a religious order.
Today most of these religious orders that updated with reckless abandon and in a liberal, progressive way are on the brink of extinction. I wouldn't call that renewal. That's called decline and fall.
But anywhere in the Church, religious life, parish life, chanceries where liberal progressiveness has taken a stronghold these institutions are in their decline and fall.
I was taught in a very liberal seminary in the 1970's. If that seminary had not made some adjustments and come back to center right, it would have closed years ago. The only seminaries that are doing well, as well as the only religious orders doing well are conservative, traditional minded ones.
Liberalism in parishes has helped to accelerate the decline of the number of Catholics who practice their faith to the fullest. Today's statistics are abysmal and should be a cause of alarm for bishops to determine just why it has occurred. We have only 20 to 25% of Catholics actually attending Mass on Sunday and of those who do attend Mass, their Catholicism may not be as strong as one might expect.
The decline in Catholic identity and practice has to be looked at over the long hall since the liberalizing and deleterious progressive trends of the 1960's. It has been handed on from one generation to the next. In order words, you can't just look at the current generation to figure things out, you have to look at the history of this decline and what caused it. You have to look at families and institutions over the course of time and generations since the 1950's.
In the 1950's we had strong, Catholic families and institutions. Catholics, both clergy and laity, were generally obedient to Holy Mother Church in the areas of faith and morals. In the 1960's these staunch Catholics and institutions were told to grow up, question, and do their own thing. So Catholics my parents age and older did precisely that and some of them adjusted their religious practice and became liberal Catholics; others were just plain confused and others became apathetic amidst all the upheaval and didn't know what to think; they became confused and upset. They handed their experiences, for better or worse to their children and their children's children.
Then religious educators got a hold of religious materials, dumbed things down, experimented with liberal liturgists and Catholic identity was gutted in religious education, liturgy, music and family practices of devotion and sacramentals.
Only coloring book Catholicism and kumbaya sentiments were handed on to the hippie generation and others like me who were fascinated by the hippies but glad we weren't hippies. My generation of Catholic parents (my age) handed on a wishy-washy Catholicism to their children and their children don't seem much value in Catholicism except as an occasional way to get some religion. Who knows what their children will be like.
But lets face it, progressive Catholicism beginning in the 1960's all the way up to today does not make for very staunch Catholics. It makes for decline and fall. It is very sad.
So what will help the Catholic Church to grow and blossom from the mustard seed of faithful, traditional minded Catholics? It is simple. Let me draw a mental picture for you:
Becoming more like the Episcopal Church is death dealing: