The decline and fall of the Catholic Church in America.
The author of this book is a devout Catholic, a former American State Senator, and a professor of sociology; and its publishing firm is noted for its adherence to the Magisterium of the Church. The first twenty-six of the book's thirty chapters are a sociological study of the Catholic Church in the United States, and the author's conclusion is: "I am, on the whole, pessimistic about the chances for a revival of American Catholicism." And, of course, no one could think that the situation in the United States is different from that in Canada.
The book identifies three causes of the decline of the Church in the last forty years: (1) the Vatican Council, which left the widespread conviction that the Church could change; (2) the coming of age of Catholic immigrants financially and politically, their acceptance by the wider society, and their desire to be the same as all other Americans, going to secular schools and colleges, and marrying non-Catholics; (3) the collapse of Protestantism and, with it, the ruling culture, into secularism and moral liberalism. Perhaps one of these might not have done so much harm, but the three together proved devastating.
The older Protestantism was strongly Christian. When its different streams settled down with one another the culture became less strongly Christian, as was bound to happen because the culture retained what was common to them all and left out what was not characteristic of all. When Catholicism joined the culture, the culture had even less common Christianity. The same happened when the Jews were socially integrated, and even more so when non-Christian religious groups came in. Today an accommodation has been made with atheists and agnostics and nominal Christians since the number of them has grown so much that the alternative would have been a kind of warfare, a warfare the larger society was not prepared to fight. And thus the present culture is only nominally Christian, hardly distinguishable from secularism. Its only virtue is tolerance, and its only vice intolerance. And the leading morality is the personal liberty principle, that one may do whatever doesn't harm another person, a principle glibly stated but impossible to validate, indeed false but clung to in order to justify a widespread hedonism. And the decline in Christianity has not stopped; it is continuing apace.
The author points out that "a 'modernized' Catholicism is a contradiction in terms,' and that "the Church in America must cease to compromise--or cease to exist."
In the last four chapters the author states what must be done if the Church is to continue to exist in America. First, the Church must decide that it cannot be fully a part of a secular society. It must acknowledge that secularism is its greatest enemy. It must continue to believe and declare that the fullness of religious truth lies in the Catholic Church alone. It must turn its colleges and universities into truly Catholic ones (there are only a few at the moment that are such). It must not pretend in its censuses that nominal Catholics are Catholics. It must focus first on real Catholics, not, as it does now, on the liberals. The Church must identify itself in opposition to its enemies; it must emphasize the sinfulness of contraception, abortion, and homosexual sexual activity. It must oppose many things that secularism permits, including pornography, cohabitation, divorce, non-marital teenage sex, out-of-wedlock childbearing, physician-assisted suicide, and euthanasia. It must stress devotion to the Blessed Virgin and the Blessed Sacrament, and the importance of chastity. If the Church is seen as not having any significant enemies it will be seen as standing for nothing.
There are two appendices in the book. The first lists signs of the decline of the Church in America. One sign is: "In the year 2000, the percentages of lay religion teachers in Catholic elementary schools who agreed with the Church's official teaching on the following topics: contraception, 10 percent; abortion, 27 percent; infallibility of the pope, 27 percent; an exclusively male priesthood, 33 percent; the Real Presence, 63 percent; life after death, 74 percent; the Resurrection, 87 percent; the divinity of Christ, 91 percent; and the existence of God, 98 percent." The second appendix shows the fallacy of the personal liberty principle.
The book is very clear and very well written. I found it hard to disagree with anything in it.
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|Author:||Kennedy, Leonard A.|
|Article Type:||Book Review|
|Date:||Feb 1, 2005|
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