Under the surface, and largely unbeknownst to the mainstream media, the tide has been turning to Catholicism for some time. The pontificates of Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI along with events such as an increase in orthodox minded seminarians, young priests and young women religious, a return to devotions and a reform of the reform of liturgy have shown us that indeed the tide is turning. However, for some time now western culture has been moving in the opposite direction, where any, whim or opinion that holds that orthodox minded religious thought is antiquated and even harmful is held in high regard. How could this jibe with the turning tide within the Church? Who would win? Didn’t Jesus promise that the gates of hell would not prevail against His Church after He gave Peter the keys (and the 265 subsequent popes) to lead it? The answer is the same answer that has always been, the Church eventually always wins and it will this time as well.
Following the Election of 2008 when liberalism was on the ascendancy, many in the mainstream media joyfully proclaimed a new era, where one could read between the lines and see that traditional views of society, family and religion were on their way out and big government was in. However, a funny thing happened on the way to the revolution, many Americans refused to go to the Bastille with pitchfork in hand. Americans view of revolution was almost always in line with George Washington’s view of limited government and not Maximilien Robespierre’s view of war against society, family and religion. Perhaps the Election of 2008 was a pox on both their big spending houses that was wrongly construed as a vote for Big Government.
This was demonstrated in the Tea Party protests that took place early this year, as well as the outcry that has arisen largely from Catholic clergy and Catholic laity with regard to abortion provisions for the Big Government Health Care Plan. Many in the mainstream media labeled these protesters as kooks and worst yet mean spirited bigots who thumbed their noses at the enlightened elites. The protesters were told to get with the program and the Church was viciously mocked by writers (Maureen Dowd and Richard Dawkins) as well as comedians Kathy Griffin and Penn & Teller. Those who always hated what the Church stood for now saw an opening and they let their venomous juices flow, and yet the Church Militant continues to pray for those who mock us. Yet, somehow we are portrayed as the ones who are bigots and mean spirited?
This only helped to show the Church in a truthful light as more and more orthodox minded Christians were coming to the Church, as evidenced by the bombshell Anglican Personal Ordinate announcement made by Pope Benedict XVI. Just like past failed attempts at Big Government, liberal Christianity had failed and many were seeing the writing on the wall and subsequently crossing the Tiber as fast as humanly possible.
As I noted before, all of this is made manifest in ordination numbers. Sixty four to six and 14 to 4 stand out. What does this mean? In 2006 when writing my book, The Tide is Turning Toward Catholicism, I noted that even though the Diocese of Rochester had more Catholics than the dioceses of Lincoln and Omaha combined, Rochester had 6 men studying for the priesthood while Lincoln and Omaha had sixty four. That same year of 2006 Denver had 14 young men ordained to the priesthood (eleven in May and three earlier in the academic year) while Los Angeles had four; a staggering statistic when one considers that the Archdiocese of Los Angeles has 4,300,000 Catholic residents compared to 385,000 Catholics for the Archdiocese of Denver. Los Angeles and Rochester are led by two of the most liberal prelates in the Church, while Omaha, Lincoln and Denver are led by three of the more conservative bishops in the US, a revelatory statistic to say the least.
This year we heard again of the many women’s liberal religious orders that had not a single postulant step forward. Yet, at the same time we hear that the Sisters of Mary of the Eucharist in Ann Arbor, Michigan and the Nashville Dominicans both are experiencing a vocations boom, so much so that that in Ann Arbor the good sisters have run out of room in their motherhouse. You guessed it, the Sisters of Mary of the Eucharist and the Nashville Dominicans are very orthodox in their beliefs. The telling quote of Archbishop Edwin O’Brien speaks volumes, “A person may give their life for a mystery, but not a question mark.” Yet, the liberals still wonder why the young priests and nuns are all so orthodox minded?
During their 2009 election coverage, the mainstream media was all but anointing Maine as a forward thinking rural state about ready to openly endorse same sex marriage. However, the residents of Maine said no to changing the definition of marriage and the mainstream media chose to forget Maine, rather than remembering her. Maine would now be treated by the mainstream media as Alaska was when Sarah Palin was Governor, left to the butt of jokes about the ignorant nature of rural people. To the militant secular left, Governor Palin had committed the ultimate sin, she kept her Down Syndrome baby, something the secular left knew they would never have the courage to do. Had Sarah Palin been a pro abortion outdoorswoman, who was Ivy League educated and big city born she would have been hailed by the mainstream media as a conservative darling and a Renaissance woman instead of a rogue hunter who somehow was elected governor. The moral of the story; be very careful of the mainstream media’s conservative darlings, they rarely are either.
The liberal reckoning is closer than we think and when the tide turns for society it often comes faster and more surprising than in the Church, for the Church is 2,000 years old and she moves at glacial pace unlike society which goes through many fits and starts. Thankfully and unlike the cultural aspects of the French Revolution and the cultural revolutions that hit Paris in 1968 and the US in 1967, the tide is being influenced by the Church and that is a great thing. We have a long way to go but there is hope.
Pope Benedict XVI has often spoken against the “Dictatorship of Relativism,” where the latest trends and whims are treated as truths, since relativism by its own definition doesn’t believe in truths. The Holy Father’s condemnation of the “Dictatorship if Relativism” was first attacked by Father Richard McBrien when the erstwhile Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger invoked the phrase at the opening Mass of the Conclave, which would later see his election as Pontiff of the Church. Father McBrien, friend of many Church dissidents, told a live television audience after hearing the phrase “Dictatorship of Relativism,” that most Catholics would head to the margins of the Church if Cardinal Ratzinger were elected. Father McBrien said he felt quite sure Cardinal Ratzinger’s election wouldn’t happen. Yet, it did.
Those in and outside of the Church who have spoken out against both Pope Benedict XVI and Pope John Paul II are perhaps unwittingly playing into the very hands that despises them. Some struggle with faith but try to believe, others hate the faithful and would never take the time to believe, much like an arrogant lab technician who refuses to look through a microscope to see what others take the time to see and investigate.
To conclude, I would like to close with an analogy that I made in a previous article. In 1968 when cultural upheaval was hitting the Western world’s city streets, college campuses and religious seminaries, dissident theologian Father Hans Kung (who would later be censured by the Vatican) and Father Joseph Ratzinger were teaching at the famed Tubingen Seminary in the small German southern town of the same name. Father Kung was much loved by the dissident students; they relished his trendy ways and often scoffed and snickered at Father Kung’s polar opposite, Father Joseph Ratzinger. It was said that Father Kung loved to tool about the small town of Tubingen in his Porsche leaving his colleague, the bicycle peddling Father Ratzinger in the dust. Some forty years later, and much to the chagrin of the pop culture powers that be, the ideas and beliefs of the Tortoise of Truth are slowly passing the Hare of Relativism.