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.

Sound Off! supporters weigh in.

All comments are moderated. To lighten our editing burden, only current donors are allowed to Sound Off. If you are a donor, log in to see the comment form; otherwise please support our work, and Sound Off!

Show 13 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: - Mar. 30, 2007 2:04 AM ET USA

    The seeds of the post-VCII debacle were vigorously growing in 1919, so much so that Pius X felt compelled to write his Pascendi encyclical, the masterful condemnation of Modernism.

  • Posted by: - Mar. 29, 2007 4:50 PM ET USA

    Patriarch: The road is most certainly not circular if we are prepared to learn from our mistakes. Not much sign yet that this is occurring, but there’s always hope. The groundwork for the 60s rebellion had been in place for nearly a generation before the revolt. Two elements of the groundwork were (a) bishops’ ignorance of the intellectual traditions in philosophy and willingness to sit quietly and listen to erroneous opinion (theologians who could not then, and still can’t now argue their way out of philosophical paper bag). (b) a decline in authentic spiritual formation; the evidence for this can be seen in the increase in pederasty and homosexuality that began in the mid 50s, not before. When the broader sexual-social upheaval landed like a bomb in the 1960s, churchmen were swept along in the wave because they lacked both intellectual and spiritual anchors. The laity, and most folks in the establishment, except the academics, had no idea what hit them. In the confusion, the boomers, who had been well fed by the academics, and who were arrogant, ambitious, and without spiritual depth (all ancient weaknesses) seized the moment.

  • Posted by: - Mar. 29, 2007 4:17 PM ET USA

    Patriot6908 got me thinking that the moderns (post VatII type) have simply eaten of the same fruit that the first human parents ate, the apples fallen from the tree of intellectual pride and arrogance. I prayed "pro Papa Pio" in my first Mass, and then watched the Church be denatured by these people filled with their own importance, not knowing whom they were crucifying. How long before that circle begins to close? Jashu

  • Posted by: - Mar. 29, 2007 2:24 PM ET USA

    If the Church survived the fourteenth, fifteenth and sixteenth centuries it can survive anything. The Holy Spirit is not on vacation and never was. The coming generation of priests is wonderful. They are solid and uninterested in innovation; they understand what is needed for salvation and are prepared to teach it. Priests and Bishops who seemed traditional switched after Vat II and supported pernicious changes. The rot was already there and one needs to recognize this to grasp where we are now.

  • Posted by: - Mar. 29, 2007 11:16 AM ET USA

    Patriarch--Very good points. And malform others these men (and women) did and do. Scratch a progressive and one finds a teenager yet in a stage of smarmy rebellion--whether it is Sister Judy Polyester giving a silly homily or Father Rebbell inserting his own cute words into the liturgy of the mass. No matter what some of these apostates do, and some are in the dotage now, there is always a snotty adolescent quality about them. Think about it when the next Call To Action conference is held.

  • Posted by: - Mar. 29, 2007 11:03 AM ET USA

    Excellent point, Patriarch. The boomers were victims of an older generation, but they themselves were ripe for the taking. “The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the teeth of the children are set on edge.” (Ez. 18:2) Many think the Paul VI quote was in fact the 3rd secret of Fatima. The chastisement can come to an end but it will require pain and sacrifice, which are not exactly mottos for most boomers & their children. The example must begin at the top with BXVI so the sheep can follow.

  • Posted by: - Mar. 29, 2007 10:32 AM ET USA

    Look, the boomers were born 1944 and later. Paul VI's lament in 1977 could hardly have been a reaction to activities and decisions of priests and religious who were 33 yrs old and younger at the time. It was rather an assessment of calamities brought on by much older leadership, who had received the now much covetted pre-Vatican II formation, despised it and malformed the younger generations. This leads one to believe the road back is circular.

  • Posted by: - Mar. 29, 2007 9:34 AM ET USA

    I am too young to be a Boomer but it never stopped me from looking at the pre-VC2 Church as my model during my conversion. The priests who instructed me were older and recommended I read works by the Early Church Fathers, James Cardinal Gibbons, and lots by Archbishop Sheen. The emphasis, however, was finding Christ in Sacred Scripture and if you do that you see the Church as God designed. This modenist trend is a passing fad because my generation wants the undiluted Truth of Christ!

  • Posted by: - Mar. 29, 2007 9:30 AM ET USA

    In the '50s there were many moral safety nets: nuns, priests, decency, even the local policemen were there to catch you. But God took that away after VCII. “The tail of the devil is functioning in the disintegration of the Catholic world. The darkness of Satan has entered and spread throughout the Catholic Church even to its summit. Apostasy, the loss of the faith, is spreading throughout the world and into the highest levels within the Church.” (Paul VI, 60th Anniv. of Fatima, Oct. 13, 1977)

  • Posted by: - Mar. 29, 2007 8:02 AM ET USA

    One of your best, Uncle Di! The older priests of my diocese seem blissfully unaware of the shrinking congregations. The battle cry is now for small Christian communities. They can not hear their own death rattle. All the people are waiting for is true implimentation of the spirit of VCII and the people will return in droves.

  • Posted by: - Mar. 29, 2007 6:48 AM ET USA

    Not that it matters, because you cannot change history, but who are the Boomers? There are tens of millions of boomers, including myself, that had no control in the impetus of the changes. For many of us, our experience has been not in the Traditional, but the Reformed. We need more specific voices to teach us not that we have gone astray, but how. Give us something to hang our hat on. There are always more followers than leaders. God have mercy on those leaders who led us astray.

  • Posted by: - Mar. 29, 2007 5:44 AM ET USA

    "Whatever it is in the psyche that connects perception and execution just isn't there. Too often, perception is absent as well." The whatever is the habit of prayer, or, rather, the lack thereof.

  • Posted by: - Mar. 29, 2007 5:15 AM ET USA

    I am saddened because I know what you have said is true. Thank you for this précis of what has happened. I do mean that sincerely.