The late Cardinal George of Chicago said, “Liberal Christianity is a failed experiment.” At this time in the church there seems to be a rise in the liberal or progressive wing of Catholicism. However, those who are concerned about this should keep several big picture aspects in mind.
First of all, our dear old Catholic Church, when it tries to keep up with the times, is invariably about twenty or thirty years behind the times. That is to say, when the Catholic Church started bringing in folk hymns and round churches and groovy priests, the trend had already pretty much reach a peak and was fading out.
The liberalism we are seeing in the Catholic Church at this time is not new. It is not fresh. It is not young. It is not innovative. It is old. It is passe. It is derivative. It is uninspiring.
It is a bunch of old folks who are either trying with one last gasp to resurrect the glory days of the sixties and seventies, or it is a few well meaning intellectuals who really do feel that climate change, neo-Marxism and the adaption of current sexual ideologies are the way to bring the church into the modern age.
Secondly, liberalism is always a protest movement. It always has to have something to campaign against. But now it has become the establishment default setting it has rather had the wind knocked out of its sails. Liberalism is driven by anger and if there is nothing to rage about you run out of gas.
Thirdly, liberal Christianity is, by definition an adaptive ideology. It believes that to survive, Christianity has to adapt to every age and culture in which it finds itself. If the culture and age in which it finds itself is still residually Christian there’s no problem, but if the culture and age in which it finds itself is radically anti-Christian, then to adapt to the culture is to cease to be Christian. Thus we have liberal Catholics who, incredibly, support same sex marriage, abortion, remarriage after divorce and who knows what else that isn’t really part of the Christian religion
Fourth, liberal Christianity focusses more on this world than the next. It is concerned more with making this world a better place than preparing for a better place. People aren’t dumb. They soon realize that you don’t need to be religious to make the world a better place, so they sleep in on Sundays. Liberal Christianity is therefore self defeating.
With this in mind, here are ten reasons why, despite the present appearances, Catholic liberalism will shudder, fade out, flicker and die.
- Liberalism goes out of date – Because it is concerned with being up to date and relevant it very quickly goes out of date and becomes irrelevant. I realized this when I used to celebrate a LifeTeen Mass at which the music was provided by groovy grannies and hip hop Pop pops. The teens stood there with their arms crossed and with bored expressions. They were having to listen to awful Catholic tunes that were out of date even when they were written.
- Liberalism is derivative – There is nothing new about Catholic liberals. All their ideas are borrowed from the surrounding culture or from Protestant sects that pioneered them decades ago. It’s second hand feminism. It’s second hand homosexualism. It’s second hand ecological concern. It’s second hand Marxism. Anything derivative is unoriginal and already on its last legs.
- Liberal Catholicism is moralistic, therapeutic Deism. Rather than a supernatural, vitalized dynamic church, liberal Catholicism has become a set of moral guidelines (usually social morals not personal morals) a method of self help or therapy combined with a vague spirituality.This doesn’t have much oomph. The batteries die and this kind of religion fizzles out.
- Liberal Catholicism is increasingly indistinguishable from Liberal Protestantism. I understand fully why Liberal Catholics are so keen on ecumenism with Liberal Protestants. They already believe (or mostly disbelieve) all the same stuff and have the same agenda. They believe they are already unified–and for the most part they are right.
- Liberal Catholicism is not distinctive. One of the reasons traditional Catholic parishes are thriving and the seminaries and convents and monasteries that are traditionally minded are doing well is because they are distinctive. They look Catholic and they witness to the truth, beauty and goodness of the Catholic faith. When I wear my cassock everyone admires–Catholics and non-Catholics. Traditional Catholicism is not afraid to make a witness and that’s what people expect and admire in a religion
- Liberal Catholic worship is dull and has run out of steam. What new direction for Catholic worship? More bland songs and banal choruses? More fuzzy wuzzy feel good theology? More fan shaped suburban auditoriums with padded pews? People are tired of that and suddenly a beautiful church with Gregorian chant is the thing that is new and exciting and powerful.
- Liberal Catholic theology is out of touch and irrelevant. I go into ordinary parishes to lead parish missions. The people are hungry for good, solid Catholic content. The professional theologians in their ivory towers with their worldly politically correct agenda don’t touch their lives. Instead through mens’ conferences, renewal meetings, parish missions and a range of events the ordinary people are rising up and God is raising up powerful teachers, evangelists, speakers and theologians and Bible scholars to fuel a new wave of grass roots dynamism in the church.
- Liberal Catholicism is the establishment religion. One academic feminist said to me recently, “I prefer to work within the system.” Well, that’s the kiss of death to any spirit led movement as far as I’m concerned. The Liberal establishment system might control their journals, their colleges and control things in Rome and in the dioceses, but the real life of the church is at the grass roots level, and those folks have zero connection with what is really going on.
- Liberal Catholicism is not refreshing its ranks. Where are the new vocations for all those religious orders where all the sisters are ancient? Where are the young priests in liberal dioceses? Where are the young brothers and monks for the old liberal religious orders? The young stay away from these orders. They can smell the rot and if they are not kicked out for being rigid, they clear off.
- Liberal Catholicism doesn’t need a reformation. It will simply fizzle out. Nobody is listening. The younger ones are not rebelling against it. They’re just ignoring it. Nobody is taking notice. Traditional Catholics aren’t even bothering to fight against the Liberal Catholics very much anymore. They are just rolling up their sleeves and getting on with being historic, orthodox, dynamic, Evangelical Catholics.
Not this Catholic or that Catholic, but just faithful Catholics.
This is why there is no real cause for worry. Time is on the side of the traditional Catholics. The young priests are more traditional. The young nuns, the young monks, the young families. The future is young. The future is strong. The future is faithful.
These are the ones–from our own ranks and fro the developing world to whom the future church belongs.