Within an unimaginably brief period of time, the attitude of many Catholics towards their past recapitulated modern Western cultural history. Beginning with an enthusiastic desire to “purify” the traditions, such people at first allowed themselves a rather cautious stance of “objectivity” towards the Church of which they were a part. This detachment, experienced in a characteristically modern way as implying “liberation,” tended to give way in time to cynicism – regarding the “institutional” Church and its traditions as merely oppressive, almost as historic conspiracies against personal freedom.

In this understanding, the essence of Church life becomes power relationships, and renewal ceases to have much to do with the things of the spirit (which are naive and distracting) and begins to focus on strategies whereby power can be redistributed. The demand for “empowerment” now raised by women’s groups and various racial, ethnic, and cultural minorities within the Church, as well as by self-designated spokesmen for lay people’s rights, priests’ rights, deacons’ rights, etc., often betray the absence of any real concern for the Church’s inner nature and mission. It is power alone which seems real and worthwhile.

James Hitchcock, Catholicism and Modernity (1979)


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