Tuesday 23rd July 2019

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Sexual Revolution And The Death Of The West

July 9, 2019 Frontpage No Comments


Great news! Blessed Cardinal Newman is going to be canonized on October 13!
For those of you who have ever participated in a Newman Center at a college or university, or have donated to the Cardinal Newman Society, or have read his book The Idea of a University then you can understand the absolute joy (and even giddiness) we all might feel at this announcement.
Personally, if it kicks off a revival of the old Newman Bookstore at Catholic University, then I’m absolutely set on this. Sadly, we might never see the likes of this unique place again after the Paulist Fathers jacked up their rent and then sold their building (that’s another story).
But the Newman Bookstore at CUA was more than just unique. If it was Catholic and in print? You could find it. De Lubac sat next to Jacques Maritain, Thomas Aquinas next to Augustine, iconography and patristics were seated comfortably next to barely touched Gather hymnals and well-loved Adoremus hymnals. Piles of National Catholic Reporter newspapers lay undisturbed next to copies of New Oxford Review that could barely be kept in the store.
For many of us who have passed through the Catholic University of America, this is our primary impression of Cardinal Newman’s charism — a free and open space for ideas where the truth always seemed to win out, not because the thumb was on the scale but because it was the truth.
So I’ll be looking forward to October 13 with all the eagerness of a college freshman. So excited…so excited!

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“Western Civilization is dead, there’s nothing we can do about it, and we haven’t hit rock bottom yet.” So began a conversation with a dear friend whose opinions on the comings and goings of the world I respect mightily.
Often there is a conversation that runs as follows. What makes Western Civilization what it is? The West…or the Church? The premise being that “the West” is really a combination of two things: Greco-Roman culture and the Catholic Church.
For those of us who come from the Anglo-Saxon (or Anglo-Celtic) tradition, we might wince a bit at this alliance between Jerusalem and Athens/Rome. After all, our forebears add a twist to these norms, as we believe and share a practice of self-governance, family and clan tradition, and the notion of individual rights against the tyranny of the collective.
Thus it is three traditions that link us, yet without Catholicism all of this doesn’t work. As Professor Brad Stephan Gregory remarks in The Unintended Reformation it was the Protestant revolt that led to the French Revolution. The demise of the West did not occur with the removal of Roman civil law, nor did it occur with the abnegation of Anglo-Saxon ideas of self-governance. Rather, the glue that held the balance between the individual and society — or the “mediator” between hand and head — was the heart of the Church.
No small wonder why the West is collapsing in a heap of itself. Recall the long history of Rome against barbarians, how the Germans and Celts fought back the legions of Caesar, Augustus, Trajan, and Diocletian. Consider as well that Constantine and Justinian integralized the Church to the state, that ultimately the arrangement ended with the Great Schism of 1054 when the split between East and West became manifest.
One hesitates to whisper the word Christendom anymore, but when we speak of the West? This is the word we should be using. No, it should not ape the caesaropapism the Elizabethan scribblers accused the Catholic Church of during the sixteenth century, but rather the mediating influence of the Catholic Church on the squabbling powers of Europe.
Today, the Catholic Church still exerts this influence, not as an imposition but as a mediator and facilitator. When Pope Benedict XVI talks about Catholics as a leaven in the world, this is a good place for Christendom to be.
Whether or not the West is doomed to collapse is anyone’s guess. The late Whittaker Chambers certainly thought it was doomed to do so unless — against all odds — it revived itself in a rejuvenation of spirit. Not community, not individualism . . . but spirit in the face of dialectical materialism. If there’s a bogeyman to point toward? Perhaps in the pointing there is also a solution.

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A writer who has asked for their names to be respectfully withheld mentions that the reason why the “sexual revolution” of the 1960s impacted the world (and the Church) so radically isn’t because of anything the Second Vatican Council did, but rather because of the baby boom in the West following the Second World War — in short, the thesis of Justice Robert Bork — where the influx of children overwhelmed our institutions and the result was a race to our baser inclinations.
That’s an interesting thought. Quite honestly, I am moderately ashamed not to be aware of Bork’s argument if for no other reason than I am a tremendous fan of the man. One wonders whether this extends any hope that — with contracting birthrates in the Western world — does this mean the Church has an opportunity to elbow out the secular creeds that have seen fit to replace sacred ones?
That seems rather doubtful, though the dice are indeed loaded in our favor.

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Another writer suggests that the post hoc ergo propter hoc link between the “sexual revolution” and the Second Vatican Council is not that at all, but rather that the two are intrinsically linked; the latter being a surrender to the former.
Part of this is that I — and many other Catholics who were raised in the John Paul II era — have no conception of a pre-Vatican II Catholicism. The Catholicism we were raised with was one of 1960s era pastels and Gather hymnals, one where we couldn’t quite figure out what our parents were trying to reform, but saw on the news how John Paul II could rally millions to Christ with a witness aimed straight against the black heart of Soviet Communism.
When the Berlin Wall fell and the Soviet Union collapsed, we rejoiced. This is the power of a Catholic Church with no allegiances save but to Christ? After all, if the rosary and Our Lady of Fatima could end Communism, why couldn’t we end abortion as well?
To this generation, the dignity of human life is our imperative; a commitment to family its only guarantee. Slowly we are excavating the things we have lost, but it comes in fits and starts.
Hence today’s problem. Too often we find tradition, but we have very few mediators. Ergo, when we rediscover the old forms, we tend to obey its rules rather than appreciate why those traditions were kept in the first place. Others find the immense beauty and mercy of the Church…but fail to appreciate the core of why we built traditions around these values, these cores, the Eucharistic Mass.
The voices that ask for mediation in tradition are few: pilloried by the political left within the Church as traditionalists; slammed by the political right as compromisers. We are neither, and the rich monastic tradition of the Western Rite is almost an imperative to keep so that such mediation can be revived in any meaningful form. All the more reason to protect a celibate priesthood, if for no other reason than it is only in the Western Rite where Catholicism nearly died out in several instances: the Roman persecutions, the Arian heresy, the condition of the Church during the times of St. Francis Assisi; the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Era. Perhaps even the modern day?
What is appreciated (and what I learn from nearly all of you who write to me) is that in very small ways, we are all passing down the Faith of Our Fathers. There was indeed an interruption in that mediation from one generation to the next…and it is painful to watch those who failed in the 1970s attempt yet again to try to impose such changes in the 2010s.
In any event, it was Patrick Buchanan who opened my eyes to the post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy of blaming the ills of the present day on the Second Vatican Council. Yet thanks to many of you, the separation of cart and horse seems mostly artificial at this rate. The changes are manifest, and for every John Paul II we can point to a Theodore McCarrick. If there could be any stronger comparison between a successful mediation of tradition and a total abandonment of both mediation and tradition, the examples of these two men (or one saint, the other very much otherwise) could not be held in greater contrast.

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Closing note? I want to thank each and every one of you for reading this column, but especially to those who take the time to write little letters of encouragement, criticism, correction, and best of all your own insight into these questions we are facing today.
The Wanderer is a special publication that exists nowhere else in the United States, and for myself? It really is the beating heart of what an honest Catholicism truly represents — in the world but not of the world. In short, you (yes you!) are a tremendous encouragement to this person. Thank you for being who you are.

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First Teachers encourages readers to submit their thoughts, views, opinions, and insights to the author directly, either via e-mail or by mail. Please send any correspondence to Shaun Kenney c/o First Teachers, 5289 Venable Road, Kents Store, VA 23084 or by e-mail to svk2cr@virginia.edu.

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The deposit of faith has not been guarded, instead it has been fragmented & corrupted especially in the areas of marriage, family & sexuality. I pray that bishops & all Catholics will return anew to this font of revealed truth & pray for cleansing & renewal in God’s life & grace.

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