This article from the Wall Street Journal chronicles the demise of the dissident Catholic theologian. Unfortunately the journalist doesn’t explore the health and youth of the conservative Catholic movement.
Why will dissident Catholicism die out? A couple of reasons: first of all, it was a movement of rebellion against Catholic authority. Most of those who were persuaded did the honest thing–they left the Catholic church. Result? No more dissent from them. Secondly, the dissenters weren’t really proposing anything positively Catholic. What they were really pushing for was a watering down of Catholicism–adapting the faith to secular norms or adapting the faith to Protestantism. Result? No clear identity except as a protest against the church. That sort of movement eventually runs out of steam. You can’t be angry forever, and if you are, you don’t attract young people. Thirdly, the dissenters told their children (if they had any) that it didn’t really matter if they went to Mass or if that it was okay to ignore the church’s rules on morality and that dogma wasn’t important. So guess what, the kids left. Result? No next generation of dissident Catholics. In fact, no next generation of Catholics at all. Fourth, the dissidents were in favor of contraception and abortion. Who you going to pass the faith on to if you don’t have kids?
Finally, (and most importantly) the dissenters were modernists, and the core definition of a modernist is that he is anti supernaturalist. The problem with a person who claims to be religious but anti supernaturalist is that he is cutting off the branch he’s sitting on. Religion, if it is anything at all, is the transaction between this world and the next. A religion that is not supernatural is not a religion. It’s a political statement, a self help group, a set of table manners or a mixture of all three.