“The Catholic Moment Now” by Father Richard J. Neuhaus (Crisis, September 1998)
Writing more than 10 years after the publication of his influential book The Catholic Moment, Father Neuhaus first reminds his readers, “By a ‘moment’I meant a period of history, an era, a kairos, if you will, extending over a generation; in short, something like the sense of historical moment evoked by the title of a later and far more worthy book, Crossing the Threshold of Hope. If the Catholic Church is what she claims she is, then the Catholic Moment is from Pentecost until Our Lord returns in glory.”
But apart from this long-term view, “The Catholic Moment was also chock-full of time-specific analyses of the Catholic circumstance, especially the Catholic circumstance in America, and was not untouched by the vulnerability of predictions. So where are we a decade later?”
Father Neuhaus then itemizes the condition of the Church in America today:
“Item: The American Episcopate is stronger than it was ten years ago … By ‘stronger’I mean more confident, more competent, and more manifestly convinced that ‘the Catholic thing’is not only true but the best hope of our culture and our world. In short, there are more John Paul II prelates.”
“Item: The Church has held firm on abortion and against the encroaching ‘culture of death.’Were it not for the Catholic Church, there would be no pro-life movement in America or in the rest of the world… The Church's witness has not wavered, and at the end of the day we will be judged by the fidelity of our witness.”
“Item: Catechetical materials are, under the direction of the bishops, being conformed to the Catechism, and the catechetical establishment that wreaked such doctrinal havoc for decades is on the defensive.”
“Item: Catholic elementary and secondary schools are making a comeback, which may be greatly accelerated by the impending victory of vouchers and other instruments of parental choice in education.”
“Item: Among the more than two hundred nominally Catholic colleges and universities, the 1968 Land O'Lakes declaration of independence from the Church is history. All the talk now is about recovering ‘Catholic identity’… Alternatively, schools such as Steubenville, Thomas Aquinas, and Christendom can serve, alternatively, as shelters from academic madness or catalysts for change, while the University of Dallas may model a future that many others will emulate.’”
“Item: The Catholic Theological Society of America has been put on notice that, without a thorough redirection, it is no longer viewed by the bishops as a partner in the Church's mission. Theologians who are determined to think with the Church (Sentire cum Ecclesia) will develop other associations where it is understood that fidelity is the friend and not the enemy of intellectual excellence and adventure.”
“Item: The balance in Catholic and Catholic-related publications has changed dramatically … There is [Crisis], of course, but also The Catholic World Report, Catholic Dossier, New Oxford Review, a reviving National Catholic Register, and, dare I mention it, First Things. Nor should we overlook the inestimable contribution of Ignatius Press… Also in communications are enterprises such as Mother Angelica's EWTN and Bill Donohue's Catholic League.”
“Item: The untold story of the hundreds of thousands of adult converts in recent years. Hardly a day passes that I am not in conversation with people, often talented academics and Protestant clergy, who are on the way.”
“Item: There are signs of an uptick in priestly vocations, and in a few places an upsurge. I expect it would be happening in more places if bishops made it a priority, if priests asked the question, if vocation directors did not confuse passionate fidelity with ‘preconciliar’reaction (these young guys don't even know what preconciliar reaction means), and if parents — especially conservative parents much given to bemoaning the state of the Church — more strongly encouraged their sons to consider the priesthood.”
“ … I am sure there are readers who are prepared to qualify all of the above with horror stories indicating that the devastation is beyond repair. Please save yourself the trouble… I know it's dark out there, but that's what the light is for. Remember this is the Church we're talking about: ‘Upon this rock’ and all that. But even without appeal to such sure promise, I believe that the evidence, a decade later, is that the Catholic Moment continues.”
Ellen Wilson Fielding writes from Davidsonville, Maryland.
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