Expansion Is Here

December 1997

The Church is at a major crossroads in her history. The voices of dissent are becoming more and more brazen, and are increasingly being echoed from certain sectors of the hierarchy. Why? Because the forces of dissent expect the pontificate of John Paul II to end soon, and are therefore flexing their muscles and, with the help of the secular media, positioning themselves to control the mood of the next Conclave and set the papacy, and therefore the Church, on a much different course.

The stage is set for a great showdown between orthodox Catholics and dissenters, those who fervently wish to get in sync with the Spirit of the Time.

Curiously, the dissenters’ formidable campaign — commented upon in part in earlier issues of the NEW OXFORD REVIEW — seems already to have had the effect of intimidating or dispiriting certain of our orthodox Catholic brethren. In orthodox Catholic publishing, some of our astute colleagues have apparently decided to take a low profile or in effect sit on the sidelines. Their line of thought, which we’ve been picking up on the good old grapevine, goes something like this: “We’ll hang on to as much of orthodoxy as we can, but it’s obvious which way Western culture is going, it’s clear that American and European Catholics will never again bend the knee to Rome, and, given this context, it’s entirely possible we’ll get a Bernardin-style pope who, in the name of dialogue, will open up ‘settled’ questions. Therefore the forces of ‘change,’ heretofore pretty much held in check by John Paul but certainly not defeated, may come surging forth, and we’ve got to be prepared to make the necessary adjustments. This is no time to come on strong against the dissenters and their patrons in the hierarchy, even when they undermine the Magisterium or take on the Pope himself, for it’s imprudent to alienate the people who may one day soon be running the Church.”

In other words, play it safe — always a tempting option. We are well acquainted with that queasy feeling which, as morning breaks, prompts us to pull the covers over our head and go back to sleep, or which, in broad daylight, urges us to bury our talent in the ground (Mt. 25:14-30). But as we start looking for the shovel, our mind wanders to Athanasius, Becket, Thomas More, Ignatius, Campion, Newman, et al., and as we roam across Church history we stumble over a stack of NEW OXFORD REVIEWs on the floor, glimpsing once again that burning candle on the cover — a persistent reminder.

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