Book Review by Richard Rex, First Things:
To Change the Church: Pope Francis and the Future of Catholicism by Ross Douthat
It is past query that the Roman Catholic Church is at present in the throes of one of many best crises in its two-millennium historical past. In human phrases, its future is perhaps mentioned to be in doubt for the primary time because the Reformation. The broad contours of the current disaster are the onward march of secularization in Europe and North America, the purging of Christians from the traditional heartlands of the Middle East, and the erosion of South American Catholicism by the missions of the Protestant and prosperity gospels. More particularly, the horrific and persevering with revelations of the sexual and bodily abuse of the weak by the clergy, and of the failure of the institutional Church to establish and handle the problem, have in some locations turned a Catholic retreat right into a rout. The dramatic and completely unexpected collapse of Catholicism in Ireland in little greater than a technology, for instance, harks again to the tectonic non secular shifts of the early sixteenth century. Only in Africa is there a lot by means of excellent news, and it’s not all the time clear how good that information is.
The disaster has come as a shock. No such prospect might have been in the thoughts of John XXIII in 1959 when he introduced his plans for a Second Vatican Council. At that second, the postwar triumph of liberal democracy in Western politics and of American Catholicism in the Church appeared to mark the ultimate decision of a dialectic that had dominated Western historical past because the French Revolution. For a lot of that period, a model of political liberalism that was usually tempted to want freedom from faith to freedom of faith had usually discovered itself in battle with a resurgent and counterrevolutionary Roman Catholicism. The rise of totalitarianism, which was defeated in the type of Nazism however briefly triumphed in the type of Marxist Leninism, fostered the emergence of a politically liberal Catholicism that, in the aftermath of worldwide battle, produced the European mission and Vatican II. As lengthy because the Soviet Empire endured, Christianity and liberalism coexisted in a measure of concord. It was an period in which in style pictures of the Catholic priesthood had been formed by Cardinal Mindszenty relatively than Cardinal Law, by Don Camillo relatively than Father Ted. John Paul II, socially conservative however politically liberal, symbolized this transient and, because it turned out, unstable synthesis. The fast rise of social liberalism threatened this equilibrium, and with the tip of the Cold War, indicators might as soon as extra be seen of the return of a extra resolutely anticlerical liberalism alongside nineteenth-century traces, although formulated in the brand new language of common human rights. Social liberalism is based upon a really completely different ethic from Christianity, and the growing stress between these two our bodies of doctrine is the reason for the up to date disaster of Catholicism in the West.
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