Religiously, morally, politically, and even physically (thanks to its increasing obesity) our nation has been slouching towards Gommorah for many years now. We’ve made ourselves worthy subjects of the great big Nannie State that our own sloth and indifference have brought into being. And it’s getting worse. There is an increasingly alarming “fiscal crisis” that even the federal government is beginning to acknowledge might not go away; and that bureaucracy of bureaucracies in D.C. has been so reckless with taxpayer money that the Pentagon cannot account for $8.7B in Iraqi funds — a financial faux pas that beggars belief. What it lacks in efficiency, our central government makes up for in an increasing capacity for tyranny and hubris.
All in all, a big mess.
But then there’s good news, too. For those with an outlook informed by supernatural faith, there are encouraging signs here and there. Our Lady of the Annunciation Monastery in Clear Creek, Oklahoma — a Benedictine foundation rich in vocations and recently elevated to the status of an Abbey — is in the middle of an ambitious construction project. The monks of the Carmel of the Immaculate Heart of Mary in Wyoming are undertaking a similarly impressive venture by way of the New Mount Carmel Foundation. Traditional Carmels and Benedictine Monasteries of women are sprouting up in different locations, too. The traditional-rite priestly seminaries of the Fraternity of St. Peter and the Institute of Christ the King are brimming over with vocations. And while religious communities dedicated to theological and liturgical novelties languish, those dedicated to traditional doctrine, liturgy, and religious life are on the rise.
In Catholic academia, while the older institutions generally reek of brimstone, small liberal arts schools, like New Hampshire’s Thomas More College, are making progress. Since the promulgation of Summorum Pontificum, some of these academic institutions are welcoming the traditional liturgy as the logical complement to their program of studies founded upon faith and reason.
On the doctrinal front, extra ecclesiam nulla salus is currently promoted by priests, religious, and laity more widely than in the past several decades. In this changing atmosphere, Saint Benedict Center’s doctrinal Crusade is getting a much better hearing in the Church than ever before.
Where might these contrary currents be taking us?
Before we venture a possible answer to that question, let’s look at the work of a respected Catholic historian for a few moments. Dr. Diane Moczar begins her book, What Every Catholic Wants to Know: Catholic History from the Catacombs to the Reformation, with a provocative description of a certain country’s demise:
Once upon a time there was a country. After a revolution in which it overthrew the rule of a foreign king, it became a small republic. Its religion was simple, emphasizing republican virtues such as piety, discipline, patriotism, and simplicity of life; most citizens were small landowners. The people had a talent for practical rather than theoretical accomplishments; they were fine builders, engineers, and administrators.
The country began to expand, at the expense of its neighbors, and conquer native peoples. It developed cities and an urban culture, and began to use slave labor to an increasing degree. It became very wealthy. And as it came into contact with other cultures, it took in ideas and influences from all over the world. People began to say it was losing its own identity.
The early religion declined, and many people took up exotic cults from the East, while intellectuals tended toward atheism. The old republican virtues broke down, and civil war broke out. Birth control, abortion, infanticide, divorce, and homosexuality became common. There was a women’s liberation movement.
People stopped reading, except for digests and popular science, and the language became debased. There was a craze for spectator entertainment: sports of all kinds, but also other spectacles, which grew more obscene and violent as time went on, and the jaded popular taste demanded new thrills.
Pollution was widespread, and many people died of a mysterious new disease. Economic problems, such as inflation and high unemployment, developed. But what many citizens feared most of all was terrorism and war from ruthless barbarian powers to the East.
Dr. Moczar is describing Rome, but it sounds like the USA, doesn’t it? As that great Empire fell, so too ours might soon fall, for we have all the earmarks of a decadent civilization on the eve of its collapse. When Rome fell, Christendom arose Phoenix-like out of its ruins, and the “ruthless barbarian powers” themselves became the bulwark of Feudal Christian Europe. It took a long time and much hard work to second the grace of God, but it happened.
There are people envisioning a sort of new American feudalism on the horizon. If their estimate corresponds to reality, then the signs of a resurgent Catholicism we’re seeing — however nascent they are — may presage something better being built on the ruins of our empire, too. However things unfold, with God’s grace mediated through Mary’s Immaculate Heart, let us prove ourselves worthy of building a new Christendom.
Cor Iesu adveniat regnum tuum. Adveniat per Mariam! Heart of Jesus, Thy kingdom come! Thy kingdom come through Mary!