Everybody’s talking about Joseph Bottum’s October First Things article called “When the Swallows Come Back to Capistrano: Catholic Culture in America.” In it, Bottum looks at the complete cultural collapse of the Church in America following the Second Vatican Council.
Both Amy Welborn and Rod Dreher, among others, have written about it. I have only just got around to reading the whole thing, so I’ll just jump in with some quick comments.
On the whole, I think the article is a good digest of the history of the upheaval in the Church in the US since 1960… and yet I don’t know that it’s a good diagnosis of the problem. First, I have to say that much of it is news to me. The problem with having been born in 1968 is that while I’ve lived through much of this time, I wasn’t aware of any of it, and those who are slightly older than me who did live through it don’t bother to talk about it because it’s not history, but memory.
Yet, that’s part of the problem. I don’t think most people who lived through that time, except for so-called professional Catholics of one stripe or another, have any better remembrance of these things. Sure, they may have heard about some of it on the news or read it in the newspaper. But their experience of the Church’s culture does not include doctrinal statements from the 1976 Call to Action conference or Vernica Luecken’s Bayside visions. No, their experiences include dissenting priests, loopy Masses, bad catechesis, and so on.
The loss of Friday abstinence
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