Counting the cost of forty years of adolescent rebellion.
A few weeks back, this article about Vatican II in Crisis Magazine made the rounds. I thought about blogging it, but while I thought it was pretty good, the characterization of the Church as she was in 1962 was off. SAM takes great pains to show how much was lost to the cultural revolutionaries waving the red banners of "reform":
At dawn on October 11, 1962, the Roman Catholic Church possessed a theological, cultural, liturgical, and devotional patrimony which should astound, even awe, anyone who is remotely familiar with its contents. She stood like a giant tree, grown from a mustard seed by the blood of a million martyrs and the prayers of innumerable saints, towering above the post-modern desolation which the rejection of her truths and her life had wreaked on Europe and the world. Within a few short years, as Mr. Johnson himself is compelled to admit, nobody had a very clear idea about what the Church was for. The adolescents, as Mr. Johnson calls them, had taken over. They created a church littered with mundane, mediocre, stupid, secular, and ugly things. And they did it with a vengeance and spite quite well displayed by Mr. Johnson’s dismissing St. Therese of Lisieux’s "Little Way" and Gerard Manley-Hopkins’ poetry as symptoms of an infantile refusal to enter into "spiritual adulthood."
I know a man who, by 1970, had a beautiful voice, fluency in Latin, and a fiery, innocent love of the Church. He loved the Latin Mass, and delighted in serving the Lord elegantly in what, according to Mr. Johnson, are the training-wheel, externalistic legalisms of its mysteries. Almost overnight, his services were no longer required, and the Church’s bishops and priests made that quite clear in the most brutal terms imaginable. He ought to have been a catechist, the leader of a schola, owning a celebrated life that was both use and ornament to his Church. But he lacked the skills needed in the post-Vatican II Church; he could not say, "that went out with Vatican II," he could not play an acoustic guitar, and he couldn’t open his mind to zen meditation techniques and alternative sexual theologies.
He is now a bitter man, still clinging to the Holy See despite decades of spiritual, devotional and liturgical abuse from a Church ubiquitously characterized by sneaker-clad altar girls, carpeted sanctuaries, sloppy preaching, stunted catechesis, pop-music liturgy, and bishops who refuse to understand that any theology, let alone John Paul II’s theology of the body, demands practical, decisive, and consequential applications to their flocks. Yes, we might find some cause to censor my friend’s reluctance to immolate his devotionalism on the Cross of ecclesiastical obedience. But we should not do it as Mr. Johnson has; to follow him, we must be ready to say we have nothing in common with the "young man" in the Gospel according to St. Matthew and, thereby, make ourselves ready to pray with the Pharisee in the Gospel according to St. Luke.
Mr. Johnson claims that the "adolescence" of post-Vatican II clerics and laymen resulted from the oppressiveness of their pre-Vatican II upbringing. He calls the rebellious barbarity following the Council a "discharge of decades of narrow, rules-based formation and institutional frustration." I found that interesting, since it’s the same argument the "adolescents" themselves like to make whenever they’re explaining how pedophiles and sexual adventurers are created by the evils of narrow, rules-based celibacy. I think the cause of the adolescent rebellion lies elsewhere. I think it lies in the false and juvenile belief that the creation of a happy present requires the repudiation of a miserable past, in the delinquent’s narcissistic castigation of his parents as being enervated, insufficient, out of touch with reality.
If the Catholic restoration desired by Mr. Johnson occurs, it will not be achieved by an army of childish, shiny-eyed bigots who believe that they are the first generation to have discovered the true meaning of Catholicism. It will be achieved by men and women who realize that they’re bigger than the modern world because they’re standing on the shoulders of giants, who are conversant with the theology of the body and the theology of Trent, and who know that "Christ is the Lord of history, and he handed the keys to Peter. That authority has resonated for 2,000 years, and its story is indeed one of glory and triumph." To that end, Mr. Johnson has actually contributed. He has shown us how very far we have to go.