In the West today, pessimism is warranted. Suicide, crime, and drug use are up; birthrates are down. In America, woke excess has undermined much of the progress made toward racial reconciliation over the course of the last century. The decline in religious practice has eroded those values that transcend political conflict and material consumption; we’re losing the shared cultural language with which we could talk to one another about matters touching on the common good. In the absence of a common cultural narrative and shared values, tribal loyalties have filled the void, becoming our false gods.
I don’t think it disloyal to admit that the Church has not adequately responded to the West’s malaise. Faced with Covid, we closed shop. Rome these days sometimes seems to be swimming in nostalgia for the 1960s. No doubt it was more pleasant to be a young cleric in the heady days of Vatican Council II–at least, before the seminaries emptied–but those are not our days.
Half a century ago, perhaps, Catholics in the West could still see their societies as Christian, though ones that were rapidly changing. So it seemed reasonable enough to hope that with a bit of updating around the edges, a little accommodation to the Zeitgeist, we might experience a new flourishing of Christian life. That didn’t happen, and it is no longer reasonable to expect that it will. We need a new response to today’s reality.
A recent article by Sydney’s Archbishop Anthony Fisher The West: Post- or Pre-Christian? provides a helpful, nuanced diagnosis of where we are.Continue reading “Making sense of our post-Christian culture”