Monday, February 11, 2008

Which is it?


In the combox to the last post, Peregrinus wrote (quoting me):
It didn't happen gradually over the last forty years--it didn't even take 10 years. It happened virtually overnight

. . .These dissidents couldn't possibily have simply sprung up like weeds. There must have been decades behind this rise in liberalism.


Well, which is it?
Both, Peregrinus. Let me give you an illustration that might explain it.

I have just finished listening to a marvellous audio book called "Krakatoa: the day the world exploded", read by the author, Simon Winchester. In it, he explains how the famous volcano was really a kind of geological time bomb, with immense pressures building up under the sea bed that eventually exploded in the most violent eruption in recorded history.

I believe that what the TIME journalist was describing was just such an "eruption" of built up pressure. In other words, although the visible and recorded rise in the level of rebellion and dissedence in the Church was literally a sudden explosion, the explosion had a long history. To be over simplistic, in Vatican II the Church Fathers opened a valve, in Humanae Vitae Paul VI tried to put the lid back on. But the pressure was too great. It blew itself to pieces.

That might be over dramatic. In any case, to continue the metaphor, today we have only the smouldering ruins of the great volcano of 1960's dissent. It's still active, and can be dangerous, but is probably on its way to extinction. Nevertheless, as Winchester describes in his books, volcanoes have a way of being reborn, not always in the same location, but always due to the shifting tectonic plates of the earth. Nothing is fixed in concrete, and every age will have its "Krakatoa's".

I'm not sure where this analogy is leading me, so I think I will leave it there...

2 Comments:

At Tuesday, February 12, 2008 12:57:00 am , Anonymous Peregrinus said...

“. . . In other words, although the visible and recorded rise in the level of rebellion and dissidence in the Church was literally a sudden explosion, the explosion had a long history. To be over simplistic, in Vatican II the Church Fathers opened a valve, in Humanae Vitae Paul VI tried to put the lid back on. But the pressure was too great . . .”

I’ve bolded what I think are key words.

In the post above this, you quote Time Magazine describing various theological currents in Catholicism – such-and-such a position is “an eschatological scare increasingly rejected by Catholic theologians”, for instance, or “laymen [and,.although the article doesn’t explicitly say so, clerics] are less and less docile”. My point is that these things would have been true in 1958, but Time Magazine wasn’t writing about them then.

Vatican II served to bring out into the open, and expose to the light of day – and of publicity – views, opinions and currents which already existed, and which were already influencing the life of the church. By doing so it probably accelerated the process, but what it really did was make people – Catholic and non-Catholic - conscious of it. It focussed attention on it.

Possibly the cataclysm could have been deferred for a few more years if Vatican II had not come along when it did, but the appearance of a steady state would have depended on Agreeing Not to Talk About It. This is hardly an acceptable or, in the long term, a viable model for the church.

And I don’t know about being left with what you call the “smouldering ruin of 1960s dissent”. Many of the attitudes described in the time article are now common and mainstream views – e.g. that church membership is conceived of as a familial/communal relationship of which shared faith is one dimension, more than as unwavering adherence to a specific statement of beliefs in toto. And of course we all know where the bulk of the church stands with respect to contraception by married couples. Views which seemed revolutionary in the 1960s are now unremarkable, but far from having receded many of them are now dominant.

 
At Tuesday, February 12, 2008 8:06:00 am , Blogger Schütz said...

Yes, that is what I meant. It "smoulders" rather than burns or explodes!

 

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