“The Open Letter” and the Generational Gap

I have just finished listening to a program on ABC Radio National’s Sunday Nights program about the “Open Letter” by “Catholics for Renewal”.

Of course, I found myself very annoyed. (Have I mentioned that I don’t like John Cleary?) The malcontents interviewed on this program draw our attention to the falling mass attendance compared with fifty years ago, to the removal of Bishop Morris, the new missal translation (which they weren’t consulted on), ordination of women and contraception, “creeping infallibility”, etc. etc. There is the usual complete rubbish about how the Church is winding back on Vatican II etc. We know the narrative very well now. It is very predictable.

Those interviewed about the woes of the Catholic Church in this program are not young. They were either baby boomers – or older (as in the case of the priest on the program). When they opened the discussion up to people who called in on the phone, the last speaker was “Chris in St Albans”:

Chris: John, look I’m a bit younger than these people. I’m 43, and twenty years ago or more, I was rejecting the baby boomer view of the Church, and I’m still rejecting it now.

John Cleary: What do you mean by that?

Chris: Well, they’re the people who take it upon themselves to speak for the whole church community when they have no mandate to do so. The fact is, it was their generation walking out on the Church and failing to provide proper religious instruction leaving my peers in all manner of strife, broken marriages and trying to navigate their way, when in fact I see today healthier numbers in the Seminaries than ever before, a Church more responsive to younger people, a Church that’s put the guitars away and got real about what the Catholic Church is about and being proud to be Catholic, daring to practice Catholicism, not pandering to some kind of return to protestant ideas of the reformation. Look, we’re a free country, we came out of a terrible experience in Ireland, we’re exercising our freedom to practice Catholicism, going to mass is striking a blow for freedom…

John Cleary: I’ve got to cut you there because we need time we’ve only got three minutes left.

Cleary then goes on to turn the conversation to the Latin Mass of all things, which naturally gets derided by the speakers.

But Chris surely had a point? The problems we are now tackling arose because of policies and directions in the period between 1968 and 1985 (it is the priest on the program who says something to the effect that it was full steam ahead in the Spirit of Vatican II until about 1985 when the direction seemed to change). The people who promoted these policies were the generation known as “baby boomers”. Now here in this “Catholics for Renewal” project we have the same generation of people wanting to push the same policies as the solution to the very problems those policies caused in the first place. It beggars belief!

In contrast, again as Chris observed, the direction adopted in recent decades – which ironically has been more faithful to the Council texts than the “Spirit of Vatican II” policies – has led to slow but steady growth in the numbers of students in our seminaries, to a vitalisation of Church engagement with youth, to a renewed liturgical practice, to young Catholics daring to practice their faith because they have learned what that faith is, and so on.

I really do wonder if there isn’t so much a “division” in the Church between “liberals” and “conservatives” as a kind of “generation gap” which prevents those on either side of the generational divide from seeing the world as the other does. We’ve a long way to go in the renewal of the Church, but we are on the right road. Now is not the time to do a U-turn and go back to the failed visions of the 1968 generation.

About Schütz

I am Catholic, married to Cathy, father of Maddy & Mia. Since 2002, I have been the Executive Officer of the Ecumenical & Interfaith Commission of the Archdiocese of Melbourne. I was once a Lutheran pastor, but a "year of grace" and soul-searching led me into the Catholic Church. It was a bumpy ride, but with the support of my (still Lutheran) wife, I was finally confirmed on June 16, 2003.
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37 Responses to “The Open Letter” and the Generational Gap

  1. Matthias says:

    I think Chris hits it on the head. I was at St Aloysius last Sunday for the 1030 Solemn Mass and there were quite a few young people and young families present. I reflected that it would perhaps the cabaret church , like the Baptist one that i am leaving still ,is becomming distasteful to younger cathlolics .That Latin mass and Gregorian Chant, are replacing Hillsong Rant.
    By the way Schutz I am meeting a Bishop tomorrow who i believe is a friend of yours
    HE Bishop Peter Elliott.

  2. Joshua says:

    Yep. Too right.

  3. Joshua says:

    It reminds me of visiting a certain prelate (a friend of mine) up north, who greatly amused me by reading out a letter sent him by a self-confessedly elderly Melbourne parishioner, which bellyached about the usual liberal bugaboos, and sought to inform His Lordship, ere it was too late, of the Pope’s conspiracy to overturn Vatican II – which he could avert apparently by staging an episcopal protest in Rome! This naive typewritten gem was sent to all the bishops of Australia, with only the name of the relevant Ordinary written in at the top! The bishop was trying to compose a suitable reply while keeping a straight face.

    Hmmm – perhaps poor Morris actually tried to follow this advice?!

  4. John Nolan says:

    I suppose I am a ‘baby boomer’ (born 1951) and took the full force of the post-Vat2 revolution as a teenager. We didn’t instigate it (Bugnini was born in 1912) and I was always somewhat critical of my father’s generation for acquiescing in it despite their misgivings. I was sufficiently well-read to come to terms with it as a transient phenomenon, and am agreeably surprised at the speed of the restoration an the last decade. I recently attended a chant course which was part of a family retreat (usus antiquior) and was gratified by the fact that I was one of the oldest present.

    • Schütz says:

      John, I wouldn’t want anyone to think that my casual over-generalizations were meant to tar EVERY baby boomer with the same brush! :-)

    • Dan says:

      “…the speed of the restoration in the last decade.”
      What restoration!? I can still hear the electric guitars from this morning’s mass ringing in my ears!

  5. PM says:

    As a late boomer, I agree entirely. If only they knew what a classroom of boys in the early 70s really thought of the vapid ‘meaningful and relevant’ pop psychology we were being fed (dig out a copy of ‘Move Out’if you canbear it!). Thankfully, it was still so anarchic that a few teachers gave us some sound teaching on the quiet in Scripture, Thomistic metaphysics and even some good modern theology – Rahner, even if one disagrees with him on some things, does deserve to be treated with respect. But I get a strong impression, from the near-total ignorance of the product, that the ‘progressive’ grip became tighter through the 70s and RE became a content-free zone. (And it was pretty dubious psychology they spouted: good clinical practice now centres on the very Aristotelian approach of cognitive behaviour therapy, rather than making my feelings the measure of all things.)

    I know that at least some bishops have been trying to turn things around since the late 80s, but I have to wonder whether the system isn’t too far gone for that. (Cathnews recently tipped us off to an interesting site run by young NZ Catholics who were comparing notes on RE classes and ‘retreats’ in which pop psych still ruled and God barely rated a passing mention.) Oddly enough, we never hear Catholics for Renewal demanding transparency and accountability about why the school system they have dominated for so long is failing so dismally.

    • John Nolan says:

      I suspect that my orthodoxy has something to do with the fact that I attended a school which, though founded by a pre-Reformation Catholic bishop, had close links to the CofE. Morning worship was accompanied by hymns from the ‘Public School Hymn Book’ and there was not a guitar in sight. My first experience of a so-called folk mass was as a 17-year-old in 1968 and I was far from impressed, even though I was called upon to serve it alongside a girl whom I fancied inordinately (alas, to no avail). The trendy young priest who presided later renounced the clerical state in protest over Humanae Vitae. Traddies take note – this was before the introduction of the Novus Ordo.

    • Catherine says:

      PM in Grade 4 I was reading ‘Dibs in Search of Search of Self” a book on child psychology if I recall correctly for RE. I was born in 1967 so that makes me Generation X. I am not surprised the Chuch lost my generation as RE classes were all about the threat of nuclear war, social justice etc. God hardly ever rated a mention. I was interested to see comedian Judith Lucy doing a series on religion. As she is the same age as me, I am not surprised she is a lapsed Catholic; really the vast majority of people who had a Catholic education during the 70s and 80s would have no idea what catholicism is all about other than horrible memories of dreaded liturgical dancing !!!!!!!!!!!

      • Gareth says:

        Here Here Catherine – you ahve said something sensible.

        The biggest concern for when I graduated from Catholic school after 13 years of education was I did not have the foggiest idea what venial sin or the rosary was.

        Is it a ‘generation gap’ or is the next generation of Catholics simply the generation that Catholicism forgot unless they read about it on the Internet or have good parents.

  6. Peregrinus says:

    I think there is something of a generation gap in the church, but I have to say it’s a bit of a red herring. Pointing out that a someone articulating a particular view is a “baby-boomer” (or Gen X or Gen Y or whatever) achieves precisely nothing whatsoever. In particular it is not a basis for dismissing that view.

    It’s certainly true that “The problems we are now tackling arose because of policies and directions in the period [a generation ago]” but a moment’s reflection will show that if there are problems we [i]aren’t[/i] tackling now because we don’t have them, this is [i]also[/i] the result of policies and directions a generation ago. We are more prone to notice failures, and to attribute blame for them than we are to notice successes and attribute credit for them.

    And I have yet to see a serious attempt from anyone criticising baby-boomer Catholics at any analysis of the problems and challenges the church faced in the twentieth century, and a proposal as to how they ought to have been addressed, and an explanation of why this would have had a better outcome. Too often, the critique of baby-boomer Catholicism is incomplete, giving the impression that the critic thinks that everything was for the best in the best of all possible worlds until 1958, and all the baby boomers had to do to continue this happy state of affairs was to do nothing. They cannot all be so stupid, of course, but until this side of the discussion is filled out they run the risk of giving the impression that they are.

    Furthermore, another moment’s reflection will show that there was never a time in the history of the church – or any other social institution – where one generation was not affected by the consequences – good and bad – of the policies and directions of the previous generation.

    It seems to me, then, that this slamming of baby-boomers is a little unreflective.

    On the other hand, perhaps this too is to be expected. Adolescents always criticise their parents’ generation, and their criticisms are usually unreflective.

    I think it comes down to this; the church will always be composed of an older generation and a younger; the older generation will always have made some mistakes, which the younger will be quick to notice, and achieved some successes, which the younger will take for granted. But if the church is to be Catholic, it needs to embrace its older and younger generations alike. For that reason the use of labels like “baby boomer” (or “adolescent”) as a tool to denigrate the views, experiences and legacy of others is fundamentally unCatholic.

    Disclosure: I was born in 1962. Depending on how you choose to define “baby boomer”, this puts me in the happy position of being able to identify as a baby boomer, or as Generation X, according to which will suit my purpose better.

    • Schütz says:

      The baby boomers were not my parents’ generation, Perry. They are to me a kind of alien breed that hasn’t been a part of my family history!

      My criticism of the 1968-1985 period should not be taken to imply a “golden age” of the fifties. That to is a false conclusion. I fully recognize that something must have been wrong to enable everything to go to hell in a handbasket so rapidly in the later ’60’s.

      It is also true that many things went right during this period of decline. I just have to have a bit of a think about what those things were (perhaps other commentators can help me on this…)

      My simple proposition was that we cannot solve problems by continuing or even intensifying the policies and approaches that caused those problems in the first place. And my observation is that many members of the generation immediately preceding mine appear to be unable to divorce themselves from the kind of thinking to which they have become indissolubly wedded.

      • Paul G says:

        Hello David, what do you think of the news that the bishops of England and Wales will reintroduce abstinence from meat on Friday, starting on 16th September?
        Personally, I think this is crazy. No matter how historically quaint it may be, it just don’t make sense to people that eating fish is any sort of penance. Eating a factory meat pie is much more of a penance.
        To confuse obedience for its own sake with obedience for a reason is surely counter productive. This new abstinence law will just be ignored, so all the English and Welsh bishops are doing is training their flock to ignore Church laws, and this will no doubt then extend to laws that have a reason for obedience.

        • John Nolan says:

          ” …all the English and Welsh bishops are doing is training their flock to ignore Church laws …” There are some who will argue that they have been doing this for the last thirty-five years at least. I would not go that far, although I would take anything emanating from Ecclestone Square magno cum grano salis.

      • Gareth says:

        Part of the issue is that the ‘baby-boomer’ generation of Catholics generally speaking do not seem to understand that Vatican II or anything to do with this period of the Church means next to nothing to the next generation of Catholics.

        Young Catholics are either completly un-inspired by it, couldnt give a flying hoot or think it was complete tragedy.

        And when the petitioners present such arguements such as ‘the church must get with the spirit of Vatican II’ (without even concretly outlining what this really means) they fail to realise that young Catholic either think one of the above or have more pressing needs in their spiritual life.

        I care more for my my x-box kinnect rather than some Council that occured fifty years ago in which I am told ‘renewed the church’ but the congregations around me are anything but.

      • Peregrinus says:

        My comments weren’t directed at you personally, David; rather at the overall impression created by the trope of complaining about baby-boomer Catholics.

        But when I read this . . .

        “My simple proposition was that we cannot solve problems by continuing or even intensifying the policies and approaches that caused those problems in the first place. And my observation is that many members of the generation immediately preceding mine appear to be unable to divorce themselves from the kind of thinking to which they have become indissolubly wedded.”

        . . . I’m afraid I can’t help thinking of specks and motes. Is there the teeniest danger that someone might be indissolubly wedded to, and unable to divorce himself from, the thinking that “baby boomer” policies and approaches “caused those problems in the first place”? After all, the steps taken in the 1960s were themselves responses to developments and influences which were always going to affect the church, whether the church took the steps it did, entirely different steps, or no steps at all. How are we to say what is the consequence of the particular steps taken, and what is the consequence of the preceding circumstances, and what is actually unrelated to either?

        It’s noteworthy that other churches which have maintained a conservative theology and praxis have suffered relative declines as big, or bigger, than the Catholic church. Clearly, there’s more at work here than “the spirit of Vatican II”. On the other hand, churches which appear to be successful – at least in terms of membership numbers and the apparent ability to attract and engage Gen X-ers and Gen Y-ers – include those which, in terms of liturgy and practice, are at the polar opposite of the kind of return to older hymnody and Tridentine liturgy that is often urged upon the Catholic church. We really have no reason at all to think that these measures would have done anything, or would now do anything, to address what we identify as our current problems.

        It may be unfair to say that people who urge a return to the Tridentine liturgy, or the catechetical practices of the 1950s are seeking to return to a mythical golden age. But when they make no attempt to show why these measures might be expected to address current problems, they do tend to create that impression. The assumption that our current problems are the result of 1960s policies remains undemonstrated and, as far as I can see, largely unexamined.

        • Gareth says:

          Pere – you stated that Churchs with a conservative praxis and theology have suffered decline.

          I chalenge this? Which ones?

          If you look at this country, I hardly think the picture you paint is reflective of this. In fact quite the opoosite.

          Uniting Church and Church of England are prime examples.

          • Peregrinus says:

            Well, since you ask . . .

            First thing to note: you can’t refute a claim that churches with a conservative praxis and theology have suffered decline by pointing to the Uniting Church and the Anglican Church, Gareth. These are not churches with a conservative praxis and theology. They can grow, decline or even disappear altogether, but they will never be “prime examples” to cast light, one way or the other, on any claim about conservative churches.

            For this, we need to look at churches with a conservative praxis and theology. (Let’s just call them “conservative churches”.)

            Now, as luck would have it, I have to hand statistics for religion in Australia from the ABS from 1954, which I think you will agree was Before The Rot Set In, and 2001. During this time, the population of Australia slightly more than doubled (from 9 milliion to 18.8 million). What we need to do, obviously, is find conservative churches, and see how they fared between 1954 and 2001.

            This is surprisingly difficult. Some conservative churches found in the 1954 figures have simply disappeared from the 2001 figures (because, presumably, by 2001 their numbers were so tiny that it was no longer worth separately identifying them). The Brethren and the Seventh Day Adventists suffer this fate. This is not a good start, it has to be said, for those hoping for the health of the conservative ecclesial tradition. Other traditions, which might perhaps have been conservative in 1954, like the Congregationalists, have disappeared in 2001 because they have been absorbed into the Uniting Church, which plainly is not conservative today.

            The Church of Christ did survive throughout the period, but its adherents declined from 80,364 in 1954 to 61,300 in 2001. At a time when the population more than doubled, that’s a pretty drastic decline.

            Now, in fairness, it must be pointed out that there are some new entrants to the conservative market in 2001. The Jehovah’s Witnesses, not mentioned in 1954, have grown to 81,000 by 2001.

            As far as I can make out, the overall trend is downwards. If I treat all these identifications as “conservative” – Brethren, Church of Christ, Congregational, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Protestant (undefined), Seventh Day Adventist – then total numbers decline from 286,965 in 1954 (3.19% of the population) to 142,400 in 2001 (0.76%). That’s not healthy, however you look at it.

            The elephant in the room, of course, is the Pentecostals, who we know have grown significantly. I’ve not treated them as conservative because, while their theology may be conservative, their praxis certainly isn’t. In fact, it’s aggressively contemporary, non-liturgical, non-sacramental, and pretty much the polar opposite of what you would urge on the Catholic church. But even if we did treat them as conservative, and add them into the 2001 figure, we only get a revised figure of 337,000, or 1.8% of the population, which is still a very large decline over the 1954 position.

            Or we could include the Baptists. Yes, they’re a decentralised and divers bunch, theologically and liturgically, but if we are going to treat Pentecostals as having a conservative theology and praxis, why not the Baptists? But it turns out that adding them to the conservative mix doesn’t change the picture very much; conservative Christians decline from 4.6% of the Australian population in 1954 to 2.4% in 2001. This is still a much steeper relative decline than the non-conservative Christians (84.8% to 65.6%)

            Now, these are crude figures. There could of course be conservative elements within the mainstream churches which I am not counting, both in 1954 and in 2001. We could have chosen different start and end years for the comparison. Etc, etc. Usual disclaimers apply. But, frankly, even using a stretched definition of “conservative” to include the Pentecostals or the Baptists or both, the decline, both absolute and relative, in the conservative churches is far too striking to be explained away by handwaving of that kind. The plain fact is that, however we adjust our understanding of “conservative”, conservative Christian identification in Australia over the period declined at a much faster rate than non-conservative Christian identification.

            • Gareth says:

              Its pretty simple stuff.

              The Uniting Church and the Church of England (women priests anyone?) are generally considered to be Australia’s more liberally-minded Church’s over the past fifteen years and yet their numbers continue to drop dramitically according to church participation surveys.

              And then you come out with an analysis using ABS stats over the past 60 years (???) which show just about every Church has declined in Australia over the past 60 years (amongst may I add a whole host of other activities such as freemasonry and ten-pin bowling) and then you lump as many Church’s as possible as conservative to prove your off the mark comment that conservative Churchs are supposedly in decline.

              Your analysis was a complete waste of time

              A proper analysis, particularly in the Catholic Church I am sure would prove your theory that conservative christanity is in decline or at the very least are stablised compared to liberal churchs self-destruction.

            • Schütz says:

              You could look at the Lutheran Church of Australia, which, I think, has remained fairly static in the period. It is a good example of a church which is conservative in theology and praxis.I do know that they have the best youth retention rate of any Australian Church.

            • Peregrinus says:

              Actually, the Lutherans did better over the period than “remain fairly static”; for every Lutheran in 1954, there were 2.16 Lutherans in 2001- a rate of increase faster than the population as a whole, and one bettered only by the Catholics, the Baptists and the Greek Orthodox (though in two of those cases I think immigration contributes significantly). I don’t think immigration contributed much to Lutheran numbers in Australia in the years after 1954, so this perfomrance has to be down to strong retention.

              Mind you, whether the LCA is sufficiently “conservative” to prove Gareth’s point is debateable. As far as I can see – though you would know this better than I – they are almost evenly divided over women’s ordination, and their final position on this question has yet to be established. They are still working to establish a consensus. On that issue at least, they seem to be pretty squarely in the Australian mainstream.

            • Schütz says:

              No. They are a conservative church over all. They haven’t yet decided on the ordination of women yet because they can’t work out if the bible allows it. They are pro-life – but not against contraception. The two strongest camps are the evangelicals and the confessionals.

              I think I would say that the others you cite here – Catholics, Greeks, and Baptists – are all “conservative” too. Doesn’t do much for your theory.

            • Peregrinus says:

              My theory employs “conservative” in the Garethian sense, David. Gareth does not consider (mainstream) Catholicism to be conservative, and as for a church, 49% of whose ordained ministers favour the ordination of women, why, perish the thought!

              As John has already pointed out, “conservative” is actually a pretty rubbery notion here. Do we consider, e.g., Sydney Anglicans conservative because they oppose placing women in positions of pastoral leadership, or progressive because they have no problem with women presiding at the Eucharistic celebration? The other weakness in these figures is that all we are measuring is census identification, whereas we all know that there is a bit more to living the gospel than that.

              To be quite honest, all I think we can cautiously conclude from the census is that it’s not conservative theology which draws the numbers, but bouncy music which may or may not be coupled with conservative theology. How else are we to explain the collapse in the Church of Christ and the boom in the Pentecostalists?

              It strikes me that a different approach, which might yield more useful information, would be to compare the relative health of “conservative” vs. “not-conservative” communities within a given religious tradition.

              We often hear that, e.g, the church offering the extraordinary form is packed out every Sunday. This isn’t terribly useful information, though, if it’s the only church in the diocese offering it, versus fifty or sixty offering the ordinary form. You can make any tradition appear healthy simply by packing all its adherents into a small enough space.

              But the Anglicans may provide a more promising field of research, because they are fairly sharply divided into “Sydney Anglicans” versus the rest, and the Sydney Anglicans predominate in New South Wales while the rest predominate everywhere else. It should be possible, by combining census figures for Anglican identification with NCLS figures for participation, to measure the relative health of these respective traditions. You could compare NSW with the rest of Australia, or you could just compare Sydney with Melbourne. And I think you would want to do this over time, to get not just a snapshot but a sense of relative changes in both places. If we accept that the Sydney Anglicans are “conservative” in Anglican terms, then this should tell us something about the effects of overlaying a conservative mindset or approach on a broad (as in “broad church”) religious tradition.

              I haven’t done this, however. I leave it as an exercise for the student!

          • Peregrinus says:

            No, Gareth. What my analysis shows is that the “conservative” churches have declined at a faster rate than the “mainstream” churches, and this remains true through several “tweakings” of the list of churches treated as conservative. Far from “lumping together as many churches as possible as conservative” to prove decline, I have to put more and more churches into the “conservative’ catgegory in order to improve the performance of that category.

            Look, here are the figures:

            On my original list of “conservative” churches, the ratio of “conservative” Christians in 1954 to “conservative” Christians in 2001 is 1:0.50 – that is to say, for every “conservative” Christian in 1954 there were 0.5 “conservative” Christians in 2001 (and this at a time during which the Australian population doubled). The corresponding ratio for “mainstream” Christians (i.e. all other Christians) is 1:1.63 – that is, for every mainstream Christian in 1954 there were 1.63 mainstream Christians in 2001

            On my adjusted figures, treating Pentecostals as “conservative”, the ratios are:

            Conservative Christians: 1:1.17
            Mainstream Christians: 1:1.60

            If I omit Pentecostals, but include Baptists:

            Conservative Christians: 1:1.09
            Mainstream Christians: 1:1.62

            Finally, if I include both Baptists and Pentecostals as “conservative”, the ratios are:

            Conservative Christians: 1:1.56
            Mainstream Christians: 1:1.59

            So, no matter how we define “conservative”, there are no figures on which conservatives hold their position better than others. Indeed, only by adopting the broadest understanding of “conservative” – including traditions which embrace women in ministry, for example, as both the Baptists and the Pentecostals do – can we get the conservative performance even to approach the mainstream performance.

            So, you may be “sure” that a proper analysis would show that conservative Christianity is holding up better than mainstream Christianity, but if you haven’t actually undertaken the analysis I reserve the right to be unimpressed by your sureness. My own analysis is very back-of-the-envelope stuff and I have no doubt could be improved and you are welcome to try and improve it. But until you do, your sureness about the relative health of conservative Christianity looks more like wishful thinking that objective observation.

      • Catherine says:

        Well one of the good things is that sectarianism seems to be virtually dead and buried ( perhaps because generation x are so ill instructed they do not know of any differences between the denominations to get their knickers in a twist about).

        People are less obsessed by sin ( which some may argue is a bad thing) but it is positive in so far as it seems nicer to me to love God and be be motivated by love than to fear God and be fear driven. Too much banging on about sin creates anxiety and even religious scrupulosity in some people, but we do’n’t have that problem now as sin is not mentioned.

        • Peregrinus says:

          Catherine, I don’t think we need to be instructed about differences between denominations in order to get our knickers in a twist about people who are ever so slightly different from us. Bigotry thrives on ignorance. As Catholics, we can see this most clearly when we look at anti-Catholic diatribes. Most of them evidence a very pretty grasp of Catholicism.

          • John Nolan says:

            Peregrinus, I would question your definition of ‘conservative’ not to mention ‘church’. In what respect are radical protestant fundamentalist sects and quasi-Christian groups (I’m thinking here of the JWs) conservative?

            • Peregrinus says:

              Good point, John. I’m using “conservative” here to label churches which I think are conservative in terms of their own theological and liturgical traditions, and which would appear to share Gareth’s positive view on the emphasis that should be according to questions of sin and morality, and his generally negative view of the changes which have characterised mainstream denominations in the past fify years or so. I agree, there are other meaningful understandings of “conservative” which would point to an entirely different set of churches, and I’m happy to accept that this particular label may not have been well-chosen. But I think this understanding of “conservative”, even if poorly named, is apposite to this particular discussion, which is about the effect of the policies and approaches adopted by the Catholic church in and since Vatican II, and the similar tendencies in other mainstream denominations.

      • John Nolan says:

        David, it is something of a truism that reformers tend to denigrate the recent past, and conservatives to idealize and romanticize it. One of the reasons for Vatican II was to continue and conclude Vatican I, although I doubt that many of the ‘spirit of V2’ crowd would have anything positive to say about the earlier council.

        One thing both councils have in common; unwittingly or not they sowed division. I think Bishop Fellay of SSPX hit the nail on the head when he opined that it takes 70 years for the dust to settle after after a General Council. I shouldn’t think there will be many baby-boomers still around in 2035.

        • Martin Snigg says:

          If the Bishops and clergy had sought to show how the teaching in Humanae Vitae was true rather than accept dissent it would have been a different story. But we’re allowed to make judgments like that – to recognise we needed more Bishop Fishers and Thomas Mores.

      • Louise says:

        The baby boomers were not my parents’ generation, Perry. They are to me a kind of alien breed that hasn’t been a part of my family history!

        LOL! Same here, David. :)

        I really liked the comment that these liberal (ie heterodox) Catholics do not have a mandate to speak for the whole Church. They have *never* spoken for me and I resent the implication that they do, whenever they say such stuff as “today’s Catholics think XYZ…”

        • Peregrinus says:

          It’s a sin not committed only by baby-boomers, Louise – as this very thread exemplifies!

          • Gareth says:

            The last I checked Pere, the ‘generation’ outside the liberally-minded/spirit of Vatican II Baby Boomers are not seen putting together useless petitions with the emphasis that they speak for the whole Church?

            In my experierence, most people that are conservtative/traditional/orthodox make a stake that the Church should listen more/take into account their views, but they never really go out of a limb like the Catalyst for Renewal type do and and make no ackowledgement that there is opposing view within the Church’s congregations.

            A simple humility and acknowledgement by the C for R crowd that their are actually others in the Church that would like to be listened to and have equally valid points would go along way..

  7. John Nolan says:

    There are very serious questions to be asked about this. Although Benedict XVI stresses the diachronic nature of the Church, he was a peritus at the Second Vatican Council and can hardly disown that council, especially as it was endorsed by his predecessor Paul VI. Yet the whole emphasis of his pontificate seems to be concerned with damage-limitation, which was also noticeable in the previous pontificate.

    It is entirely possible that historians might see John XXIII’s summoning of a general Council as being a mistake; there is evidence to support the view that he was dismayed at what happened, and he died without endorsing a single decree of that Council. The derailing of the Church (in Europe, America and Australasia at least, I cannot speak for the Church in other regions) coincides with the pontificate of Paul VI (1963-1978) and this needs to be reviewed through the lens of history, perhaps in a hundred years’ time.

    • Gareth says:

      John: and this needs to be reviewed through the lens of history, perhaps in a hundred years’ time.

      Gareth: Awesome – we will up be dead by then and with all hope gone to our ‘eternal reward’.

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