Emmet Scott has a very interesting article entitled "The Decline and Fall of the Roman Catholic West." In it he chronicles the seeming decline of the Catholic Church in the West. He lays the blame pretty much at the feet of the Second Vatican Council, which he argues changed the act of worship central to the Catholic experience. Quotes are below:
"If we seek to identify the cause of Catholicism’s collapse in its traditional European and American heartlands we need look no further than the Second Vatican Council: For the collapse, both in terms of practice and in terms of birth-rate, began within about five years of the Council’s close and the implementation of its reforms.
What then was the Second Vatican Council, and why was it so devastating?
Before examining the ideological agenda behind the reforms introduced at Vatican 2, we need to say something about what those reforms meant for Catholics in the pews. To begin with, almost overnight, the ordinary Catholic saw the sweeping away of traditions and practices that had endured centuries, or rather, one and a half millennia. The mass, the central act of Catholic worship, was transformed. Latin, the language of church liturgy since the time of Constantine and earlier, was dropped, to be replaced by the vernacular of the country. Gregorian chant and traditional church music in general was abandoned and replaced by a variety of Pentecostal-like hymns, as well as new compositions which sounded very much like junk pop music – usually played on guitars."
Praise and Worship music has long grated on my nerves before I converted to Catholicism. I grew up on the old hymns. Scott continues:
"But the Vatican 2 reformers did not stop there: The very content of Catholic teaching changed beyond recognition. Instead of personal responsibility and moral accountability, priests and bishops now spoke only of love and forgiveness. Congregations were encouraged to believe that God would forgive everything, even if forgiveness was not asked. The faithful became used to hearing priests speak of the need to “love yourself” and to reject the whole idea of guilt. Indeed, for many Vatican 2 priests and theologians it seemed that feeling guilty was the only sin a man or woman could commit. In many parishes, sermons (now called “homilies”) centered on the need to fight for social justice, and in some parts of Latin America the word “fight” was interpreted in the most literal sense possible. Everywhere, “social action” replaced the call to personal holiness, and in keeping with this world-centered outlook, the idea of the supernatural was downplayed and even denied. Thus many priests interpreted Christ’s feeding of the 5,000 as not a miracle at all, but a “social miracle” in that, when the crowd saw the generosity of Jesus in distributing the five loaves and two fishes, they responded by bringing out their own (concealed) food hampers and sharing them with their neighbours.
In short, by the late 1960s the Catholic Church looked and sounded, to all intents and purposes, like a liberal Protestant congregation, barely distinguishable, in terms of doctrine, from the Lutherans or Anglicans/Episcopalians. Indeed, in some respects, Catholic bishops and clergy went even further than their liberal Protestant counterparts. All reference to the “hot button” issues of what has now become known as the Culture Wars, was studiously omitted from sermons and church circulars. The present writer, who is a practising Catholic, has not heard a word about sexual morality, abortion, pornography or homosexuality, from the pulpit in forty years. Nor has he heard the word “Hell” or even “Purgatory” mentioned in the same period. These teachings, which are about accountability and personal morality, were quietly dropped, though never officially removed from church doctrine. Thus, whilst it is commonly perceived that Catholics are conservative on all these issues, in reality rank and file Catholics, as well as Catholic clergymen, are now actually much more liberal than evangelical Protestants, and almost as liberal as atheists and agnostics.It is hard to many pastors talk about sexual morality, abortion, pornography or homosexuality from the pulpit these days. Very few people are willing to risk upsetting their church goers or parish goers. Too many times the worry is about upkeep on the building, or the funding for the next building project and not on the building and maintaining the faith.
Scotts laments the what might have been. The What If scenario. Much harm to Western Culture could have been prevented or stalled at the least. I tend to think of it like A Canticle for Leibowitz. The Church will be put to the trial, shaken to the core, maybe even teetering on the brink, yet, we have seen this before in history. Civilizations rise, plateau, decline and fall. The Church was there during the last Dark Ages, to emerge and grow. I have a feeling that it will survive the next Dark Age to come.