Archive for June 24th, 2005

The Swift Collapse

Among many interesting threads in progress over at Amy Wellborn’s blog is this one , which concerns the speed with which catechetics (among other things) fell apart after Vatican II. Rather than go off-topic on that thread, I thought I’d say here that I’ve long been astonished at how quickly many institutions fell apart or experienced a near-total loss of confidence around the same time.

I entered my teens in the early ’60s, in a world that was still basically that of the ’50s, and by the time I turned 22 in 1970 it had turned upside down. I think in particular of social and sexual life in colleges. When I was a freshman in 1966 the girls were locked up (literally) at night and it was extremely difficult, and a major violation of the rules, for either sex to get past the first-floor lobby of the dorms of the opposite sex. By 1971 or so all that had just been swept away and the dorms were for drugs and sex.

It was as if the young revolutionaries only had to blow at the structures of traditional mores and they just collapsed. I conclude that the people running the show did not really believe in what they were doing, since they abandoned their posts at the first sign of attack.

I think the problems of the Church were part of a greater psychological crisis in Western culture, and that in turn was an effect of the spiritual crisis. Part of it, I guess, was a needed sense of cultural self-examination, the confrontation of collective wrongdoing such as racial oppression. But clearly that self-examination lost all sense of proportion.

Another thread at Amy’s has this great quote from the Pope (Benedict): "The West reveals . . . a hatred of itself, which is strange and can
only be considered pathological; the West . . . no longer loves itself;
in its own history, it now sees only what is deplorable and
destructive, while it is no longer able to perceive what is great and

I believe one reason for this is that so many people–we, the masses–perceived on some inarticulate level that those great and pure things had ceased to animate the culture as a whole. Freedom, higher material standards of living, and all those things are wonderful in their place, but they will never suffice to make a culture cohere. Indeed, they militate against it, if they usurp the place of religion–especially in a culture that once had a faith. "And the last state of that man will be worse than the first…"

Maclin Horton

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