Friday, December 30, 2011

2011: the 1968 of the New Evangelization

Today it’s time to write the last post of 2011.  On the purely personal level I’m ready to put this year to bed.

On the macroscopic level, it’s been full of events that may define the last twelve months as a watershed time similar to 1968.  While it’s still early to say the culture of death has come to the end of its chain and that Catholicism is firmly on the path of resurrection, our hopes for the return of sanity have pretty firm grounds.

Just over a year ago, a “progressive” nun speaking for a schismatic group called FutureChurch proclaimed, “It is clear that change is happening, and that it is bigger than any of us. … [The positions taken by some bishops in the last decade and a half] have led to more Catholics saying we have to resist this and be about a different kind of church because that’s not working anymore.”[1]  FutureChurch is indeed ahead of its time, applying the thoughts of the mid-Sixties to the Church of the mid-Forties.[*]  By contrast, the evidence pouring in since then indicates that change is happening in the opposite direction, that the movement is towards becoming more faithful to orthodox, traditional Catholicism.

Pro-life progress: It was only a couple of years ago that poll numbers started showing a definite swing in American attitudes against abortion.  Events of the last year have rocked the pro-abortion camp, starting with the indictment of Philadelphia abortionist Dr. Kermit Gosnell and several of his employees on seven counts of murder, two counts of infanticide and 33 counts of felony abortions.  Then “sting” journalism from LiveAction revealed that Planned Parenthood workers were prepared to act as accessories to teen prostitution, which started the first calls from Congress to investigate how the abortion giant spends its Title X funding, followed by the first of over fifty legislative victories in 24 states as Virginia passed a law requiring hospital-standard safety measures in abortion clinics.  One event that nearly slipped under the radar, but which has massive implications, is the withdrawal of the Geron Corporation from fetal stem-cell research.

This hasn’t come without pushback, as the Obama Administration has threatened to withhold federal funds from states that have voted to defund local PP organizations and brought forth new HHS standards overriding all but the most vestigial conscience protections of religious organizations in providing contraceptive coverage through employee health plans.  Nevertheless, if attendance at protest rallies and marches is any indication, the coming generation of American youth is overwhelmingly and actively pro-life, spelling the doom of the abortion industry.

Catholic youth:  Speaking of the coming generation, Tom Hoopes of notes that the first class of “Denver babies” — i.e., Catholic children born in the wake of Bl. John Paul’s Denver World Youth Day, itself a watershed event of the Church in America — started attending college in 2011. Since ’93, there has arisen a solid phalanx of self-identified “JP2 Catholics” (now also identifying themselves as “B16 Catholics”): better catechized, more orthodox and more “on fire” for the Faith.  Along with this development have been the foundation of several Catholic colleges and universities centering their identity and teaching on the doctrines and disciplines of the Faith, along with growing seminary classes filled with young men hungry to return to the traditions of the Church.

It is hard to overestimate the power of universities to change a culture [Hoopes writes]. A Spanish Marxist once said “give us 10 universities and we will change the face of Europe,” and that is what happened. As Catholicism becomes even more of an intellectual countercultural force in America, developing leaders convinced of its truth and its importance, its influence will grow exponentially.[2]

View Emerging Anglo Catholic Ordinariates Worldwide in a larger map
Conversions: As of 2009, according to Fr. Bill Casey CPM (who got the information from The Journey Home host Marcus Grodi), over 800 Protestant ministers had converted, and another 700 were “in the pipeline”.[3]  While this is great news in itself, one news thread which didn’t get much coverage but which bodes well for the Church in America was of growing Lutheran interest in the Anglican ordinariate scheduled to be erected on January 1. One of the largest is the Anglo-Lutheran Catholic Church, which has been working since 1997 to bring more Anglicans and Lutherans back into communion with the Holy See.  The Catholic Knight has provided a Google Map (above), last updated December 3, which shows the various Anglican and Lutheran parishes looking to join the Latin-rite Church through the medium of the Ordinariate, to be headed by former Episcopal bishop of Rio Grande Fr. Jeffrey Steenson.

Mass revision:  The transition from the older, dumbed-down, doctrinally iffy ICEL translation of the Roman Missal to the more literal version saw Catholics staying in the Church in droves, with nary a whimper except from the usual sources.  In some media, this would mean the transition was a “non-event”.  However, as Hoopes points out, the new liturgy is along the lines of a “tectonic shift”, bolstering the correct catechesis of the next couple of generations.[4]  While the lack of protest from the pews argues that the event wasn’t that important to them, it also shows that the “Spirit of Vatican II” crowd didn’t have that much influence or sway over them.

At one time, about twenty-five years ago, it was estimated that conservatives and traditionalists formed no more than ten percent of the Church in America.  Well, as we discovered back in August, a committed core of ten percent is all you need to change majority opinion over time.[5]  Moreover, I would submit that progressivist excesses in pushing their agendas — especially those taken by the current White House — will help to further crystallize the core of the Catholic countercultural movement and create further tipping points, enabling further, more far-reaching successes in the next ten years.

So was this a good year for the Catholic Church in America?

Was John Paul II beatified this year?

[*] The phrase is doubly ironic, as I stole its structure from Fr. Andrew M. Greeley.

[1] Roberts, T. (2010, December 7).  Outline of a new life.  Retrieved December 30, 2011 from National Catholic Reporter:
[2] Hoopes, T. (2011, December 29).  Seven 2011 Events That Will Change the Church’s Story in America.  Retrieved December 30, 2011 from The Gregorian Blog:
[3] Casey, B. (2009, July 13).  Superficial Preaching, Video Clip.  (Fathers of Mercy) Retrieved December 30, 2011 from YouTube:, at 5m 56s.
[4] (Hoopes, 2011).
[5] See Xie, J. et al. (2011).  Social consensus through the influence of committed minorities. Physical Review E 84:1 (July 2011).