A godly man in an ungodly age
“To govern the bark of Saint Peter and proclaim the Gospel, both strength of mind and body are necessary, strength which in the last few months, has deteriorated in me to the extent that I have had to recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to me.”
With those brave, wise, simple words, Benedict XVI announced an end of his papacy. How stands the church he has led for eight years?
He restored some of the ancient beauty and majesty to the liturgy. He brought back to the fold separated Anglican brethren. The church is making converts in sub-Saharan Africa. And in America, new traditionalist colleges and seminaries have begun to flourish.
That is looking back eight years. Looking back half a century, to that October day in 1962 when Pope John XXIII declared the opening of Vatican II, the church appears to have been in a decline. At Vatican II, the Rev. Joseph Ratzinger, the future Benedict XVI, was among the reformers who were going to bring the church into the modern world. The encounter did not turn out well.
In 1965, three in four American Catholics attended Sunday Mass. Today, it is closer to one in four. The number of priests has fallen by a third, of nuns by two-thirds. Churches have been put up for sale to pay diocesan debts.
And the predator-priest sex-abuse scandal, with the offenses dating back decades, continues to suppurate and stain her reputation and extract billions from the Sunday collections of the abiding faithful.
The highest-ranking Catholic politicians, Vice President Joe Biden and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, support same-sex marriage and belong to a party whose platform calls for funding abortions to the day of birth. Catholic teaching on contraception, divorce and sexual morality is openly mocked.
As one looks around the world and back beyond the last half-century, it seems that Catholicism and Christianity have been in a centuries-long retreat.
In Christianity's cradle, the Holy Land and the Near East, from Egypt to Afghanistan, Christians are subjected to persecution and pogroms, as their numbers dwindle. In Latin America, the church has been losing congregants for decades.
In Europe, Christianity is regarded less as the founding faith of the West and the wellspring of Western culture than as an antique. And when the faith dies, the culture dies, the civilization dies, and the people die. So historians and poets alike have written.
Surely that seems true in Europe. The culture seems decadent, the civilization in decline. And the people have begun to die. No Western nation has had a birth rate in three decades that will enable its native-born to survive.
Dispensing with Christianity, Western peoples sought new gods and new faiths — communism, Leninism, fascism, Nazism. Those gods all failed. Now we have converted to even newer faiths to create paradise — Democrat capitalism, consumerism, globalism, environmentalism, egalitarianism.
The Secular City seems to have triumphed over the City of God. But in the Islamic world, an ancient and transcendental faith is undergoing a great awakening after centuries of slumber and seems anxious to re-engage and settle accounts with an agnostic West.
As ever, the outcome of the struggle for the world is in doubt.
Pat Buchanan is the author of “Suicide of a Superpower: Will America Survive to 2025?”
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Increasing player salaries pinch financial flexibility of Pirates
- No. 11 Purdue presents tall order for Pitt
- Mt. Lebanon puts temporary halt on deer kill
- Founder of Z&M Cycle Sales in Hempfield killed in Florida motorcycle crash
- Starkey: Tomlin lived in his fears
- Penguins’ reshuffled top line of Crosby, Dupuis, Kunitz looks familiar
- Slain St. Clair officer walked into ‘worst nightmare’ for police
- Steelers receiver Wheaton takes advantage of opportunity in breakout game
- Field conditions could play factor for Clairton in PIAA quarterfinals
- HS highlight reel: Seniors shine at soccer all-star game
- Crop of young players bodes well for Springdale boys basketball team