bad conscience & the persistence of memory

By Diogenes ( articles ) | Mar 29, 2007

Luther surely spoke very good sense when he compared humanity to a drunkard who, after falling off his horse on the right, falls off it next time on the left.
-- C.S. Lewis

OTR made recent mention of Jody Bottum's First Things article on the emergence in the U.S. of a "thin" Catholic culture and the contempt for the post-Conciliar flake-out that provides its impetus yet at the same time makes it vulnerable to counter-attack. "A rebellion against rebellion doesn't escape the problems of rebellion," says Bottum, "and a chosen tradition is never quite the same as an inherited one." Approaching the problem from the perspective of the in-between generation, Barb Nicolosi asks whether there is anything worth salvaging from the wreckage and, if so, how we might find it. Some excerpts from her post:

I see in the generations now wresting power from the Boomers, the inclination to set back the clock to before all the insanity started. I think this inclination is only going to gather momentum in the next few years. Some of this is fueled by rage at having so many things jammed down our throats ... The lesson that the Rebellious Generation has never learned is that, just because people fall silent, does not mean you have won them over. It just means that they are waiting for their moment. Knowing that eventually all tyrants fall.

History tends to move in pendulum swings. I am afraid that when the Boomers pass, the pendulum will swing away from everything they advocated. It will no doubt be enough to win an argument in a few years to be able to say, "Well, that was one of those stupid things they used to say in the 70's."

Barb's at her best when exasperation has put her out of the running for Miss Congeniality, and she knows it, and is past caring, and lets the competition have it in the mid-section with a 12-gauge. Her vexations seldom spoil her aim.

I know I must be missing some really positive great things that have come from all the Boomer's innovations in the Church. But I don't think we are going to be able to save those unless we have a real, real, real serious "Come to Jesus Moment" on the part of the grey-haired revolutionaries. I think the Baby Boomer Crusaders need to shake off the self-righteous denial and help us out here by admitting where they went wrong. They need to say, "We over-stepped here." "We lost a value there." "This was a big mistake. HUGE."

I've suggested elsewhere that some persons are warped by abrupt emancipation as incurably as others are by prolonged imprisonment. The admissions Nicolosi is looking for won't be forthcoming, because those from whom they're due are psychologically incapable of making them. By "incapable" I don't mean "too proud to admit mistakes"; I mean impossible in the way stroke victims find certain speech acts impossible. Whatever it is in the psyche that connects perception and execution just isn't there. Too often, perception is absent as well.

At one point Nicolosi touches on a peculiarity of the post-Conciliar period that most unsympathetic observers will recognize: that almost panicky insistence on immediate innovation. It's not easy to account for, given the virtual monopoly on the decision-making apparatus the innovators enjoyed at the time.

I was stunned reading [Ann Carey's Sisters in Crisis] to remember the constant, soul-wracking, nightmare inducing upheaval of being a postulant, novice and junior in the 80's. It is amazing, in retrospect, how incredibly fast and unreflective the changes came down in my own community, the Daughters of St. Paul. And it was even more ridiculous because we had the model of the other failed communities that had already revolted themselves into irrelevance before us. But the Boomers were out of their minds in a way. I remember them being kind of manic in making the changes happen urgently fast. If I could ask them anything today it would be, "What the hell was the rush?!?"

Revolutionaries, once they've put the ancien régime to the guillotine, realize at some level that the victims easiest to catch and behead were seldom those most guilty of the oppression the insurrection was meant to cure. This means that, with the old power toppled, the main threat to the new order are associates of more tender conscience who remember the injustices inflicted by, not upon, the revolutionaries -- injustices rationalized at the time as necessary for the success of the revolution. Hence the secondary (and usually protracted) frenzy to eliminate the road back. When the revolution is cultural rather than civil, almost any surviving custom or symbol or figure of speech can be a bearer of the kind of memory the innovators detest. They are not gradualists. It has to go now.

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