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up to scratch?

By Fr. Paul Mankowski, S.J. (articles ) | Apr 30, 2003

In U.S. Catholic magazine, Bob Smietana writes an only mildly patronizing article about the return to orthodoxy among younger Catholics.

[M]any of the parishioners at St. Thomas have chosen to be "intentionally orthodox" -- embracing official Catholic teaching on a whole range of issues, including NFP. Not because the pope says they have to, or out of nostalgia for a pre-Vatican II past, but because they genuinely believe the church's teaching is "the truth."

Smietana seems genuinely perplexed by this attitude, which he observes has counterparts in Protestant denominations as well. The Lutheran scholar Martin Marty is at hand to offer the obvious sociological explanation:

An orthodoxy movement usually gets started, says Marty, when an event or a charismatic leader rises up and "defines an itch that people didn't know they quite had and helps them scratch it."

Catholic clergy are quoted on both sides of the question. How many times have you heard a sermon from this man (or one of his fellow droids)?

[Redemptorist Father Paul Hansen] argues that the focus on orthodoxy is a reaction to the uncertain times we live in. Economic difficulties, high divorce rates, and a sense of information overload have made people anxious for black-and-white answers. "There is a lot of insecurity, and they want the cocoon," he says. "I am convinced that fundamentalism, or looking to orthodoxy, has nothing to do with faith," he says. "It has to do with fear. In an age of insecurity, people grab on to the tradition to tell them what to believe."

Though theologically lighter-than-air, Smietana's article does make a stab at trying to understand what's going on. The reductivist explanations are not the only ones he entertains, and, to his credit, he even posts links to Opus Dei, CUF, Women for Faith & Family, etc. Needed: a glance at 1 Corinthians 2:16.

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