|Counter-cultural young ladies at the Family Retreat|
Actually, it is not as simple as that. For the Church's difficulties coincided with very similar problems for a whole range of other organisations. As I have blogged before, membership organisations of all kinds grew rapidly in the first half of the 20th century, and began to decline in the 1970s. Not only that, but a number of other measures of 'social capital', such as whether people trust strangers or know their neighbours, rose and declined in exactly the same way. It is an extraordinary phenomenon.
|A public sign of penance, on Ash Wednesday in Oxford|
At least to some extent, trends of church-going can be explained in the same way: people don't want to spend their time in that way. And church-going has declined across the denominations.
Can the difficulties of the Catholic Church be put down to social factors, then? No. The explanation won't work.
|Counter-cultural young men, Good Friday with the FSSP in Reading|
|Stations of the Cross at the St Catherine's Trust Summer School|
This would also explain the 20% gap of explanation in everyone else. Why, says Putnam, do even those people living essentially 1950s lifestyles in the 1980s - wife not going out to work, living in a small town, not watching TV morning noon and night, etc. etc. - why do even these people, once statistically isolated, still show declines of church-going, dinner-party giving etc.? Well, if the baby-boomers had a distinct ideology, it is hardly surprising that even some of the older generation picked this up to an extent as time wore one.
|Putnam's summary pie chart, from 'Bowling Alone' p284.|
(Putnam's pie: 'Work' includes women going to work; 'Sprawl' includes commuting to work and also to less local shops. The overlap between TV and 'Generational Change' is the difference made by growing up with TV in explaining why the younger generation is less socially engaged. Other factors, which Putnam attributes vaguely to 'values', explains the rest of the 'Generational Change' segment. 'Other' is the part he can't explain at all.)
In other words, the 'social change' explanation of the Church's decline gives a very large space for change as a result of changing values or ideology, as well as things like commuter times and the invention of the telly. We cannot say that the Church is simply a victim of this change, because, particularly looking back to the mid century, the Church is a major player in the formation of values. And as we all know, one of the effects of the 'Spirit of Vatican II', in the lead up to the Council and after it, was a deliberate policy of not resisting the values of the new generation.
|Canon Meney ICKSP joins the Walsingham Pilgrimage last year.|
The 1960s saw a social revolution which was fundamentally hostile, not only to the Church, but to all kinds of institutions essential to social cohesion. It was precisely this moment which the Church chose to give up, or seriously tone down, its campaign against these values. The new values could, I suppose, be summarised as materialism, or alternatively an interest in crack-pot spirituality (or sometimes both); and an individualism which rejected all kinds of rules. On the one hand, the Church seemed to be doing extraordinarily well, with full seminaries and lots of converts over the previous decades; on the other, there was great pressure to let people off the leash a bit. So the Church (speaking loosely) did what schools, universities, professional associations, governments and religious groups of all kinds did: let things hang out a little.
I don't think it was the Holy Spirit. The fruits of it speak for themselves. Now we are picking up the pieces, Bl. Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict have had to remind us that the Church must be counter-cultural. We can't afford to accommodate the culture of the day, because it is hostile to the Faith. We must stand up against it, and teach our children to stand up against it. We need to do, in fact, what was second nature to the Church before the Second World War, which also existed in a hostile environment, not so much one of hedonistic materialism but of anti-Catholic bigotry: we have to make sure we have a completely secure grip on the facts and arguments of the Faith, conform ourselves to Christ, and put up with the enemies of the Faith ridiculing us for it. And this is something we can and must do in the liturgy itself.
|Bishop Rifan at Mass for the LMS Pilgrimage to Holywell, North Wales|
Let me end with two quotations.
It may well be that kneeling is alien to modern culture—insofar as it is a culture, for this culture has turned away from the faith and no longer knows the One before whom kneeling is the right, indeed the intrinsically necessary gesture. The man who learns to believe learns also to kneel...
Bl. Pope John Paul II:
See the FIUV paper on Western Culture.