Monday, May 05, 2008

TIME: "Is Liberal Catholicism Dead?" [UPDATED]

(Hat tip: The Curt Jester)

TIME Magazine, which failed to include Pope Benedict among its "TIME 100", wants to know whether the Holy Father's recent visit to America signaled the end of "liberal Catholicism":
He may not have been thinking about it at the time, but Pope Benedict, in the course of his recent U.S. visit may have dealt a knockout blow to the liberal American Catholicism that has challenged Rome since the early 1960s. He did so by speaking frankly and forcefully of his "deep shame" during his meeting with victims of the Church's sex-abuse scandal. By demonstrating that he "gets" this most visceral of issues, the pontiff may have successfully mollified a good many alienated believers — and in the process, neutralized the last great rallying point for what was once a feisty and optimistic style of progressivism.

To some extent, liberal Catholicism has been a victim of its own success. Its positions on sex and gender issues have become commonplace in the American Church, diminishing the distinctiveness of the progressives. More importantly, they failed to transform the main body of the Church: John Paul II, a charismatic conservative, enjoyed the third-longest papacy in church history, and refused to budge on the left's demands; instead, he eventually swept away liberal bishops. The heads at Call to Action grayed, and by the late 1990s, Vatican II progressivism began to look like a self-limited Boomer moment.

Then, the movement received a monstrous reprieve. The priest sex abuse scandal implicated not only the predators, but the superiors who shielded them. John Paul remained mostly silent. A new reform group, Voice of the Faithful, arose; the old anger returned, crystallizing around the battle-cry "They just don't get it."

Benedict's visit, however, changed the dynamic. And that's a problem for progressives. Says Fr. Thomas Reese, a senior fellow at Georgetown University's Woodstock Theological Center whom Benedict famously removed from his previous job as editor of America, "Reform movements need an enemy to organize against. As most bishops have gotten their acts together on sex abuse, they have looked less like the enemy and more like part of the solution. Enthusiasm for reform declined. With the Pope's forthright response, it will decline even more."

My Comments:
Of course, we've known for a while that "The Scandal" has been "the last great rallying point" of so-called "progressive" Catholics who want to use it as a means of calling into question the Church's moral authority on important issues and cowering into silence those who appeal to that authority.

In fact, a moniker has been given to invocations of that particular ad hominem rhetorical device (see "Anderson's Law", or whatever you want to call it).

At any rate, it looks like the "We Are Church" crowd is going to have to find a new whipping boy.

Fr. Z's take on the TIME article.

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