As Europe, North America and South America breezily jettison the Christian foundations of their political orders the “west” such as it is, spirals into further decline. To save the West you need to look to the Church for a rennaissance …but the Church itself, as in past epochs, is in crisis. What therefore is to be done?
Renew the church and you will save the West. So how do we renew the Church? As everyone knows, everyone has an opinion about how to do that. Some want to continue down the route of Vatican II and “liberalize” the Church even further (e.g. Gary Wills and Hans Kung, Richard Rohr and the National catholic Reporter folks etc). Some want to reverse Vatican II’s “reforms” (the traditionalists). Some want to accept Vatican II’s reforms but then stabilize the ship by interpreting Vatican II documents conservatively (Popes John Paul and Benedict and some prominent “theocons” like George Weigel and the folks at First Things etc).
I do not agree with any of these positions.
Its not about Vatican II. like every other ecumenical council down through the ages this council did some bad things and some good things. I have posted on Vatican II previously so won’t go into that issue here. There is always going to be debate about development of practices, doctrine and church. There always has been such debate and always will be. The cause of the crisis in the church today is not about Vatican II or development of doctrine (understanding the so-called “sexual revolution” including feminism, gay marriage and so forth) or development of practices (such as Latin vs Novus Ordo rite etc)….though, of course, these issues are important. My point is that these issues are NOT the source of the crisis in the Church–they are symptoms.
What then is the source of the crisis in the Church today? If we could pinpoint that source we would also gain a deeper understanding of the crisis of the West more generally. In my opinion the source of the crisis is partially found in what the 19th century Popes called “modernism”. It is a heresy much like the ancient heresy of Arius. The Arian heresy claimed whole countries, most of the eastern Church, most of Northern Europe, most political leaders. It took centuries to defeat.
While the 19th century Popes were onto something when they decried modernism they left out the most crucial task for the Church then and NOW: How do come to grips with the rise of science. Modernism is so potent a force because it claims that it is allied with science. To solve the modernist crisis the church needs to embrace science and become a leader in the scientific enterprise–just as it was in the days of the Church Father and in the middle ages.