Volume > Issue > Rome Under Siege

Rome Under Siege


By Dale Vree | November 1996

Over the last half-dozen years, the New Oxford Review has undergone some changes in emphasis. We’ve paid less attention to political and economic issues, and more attention to moral and cultural issues, and the divisions in the Catholic Church. Why? Because the issues that confront us have changed dramatically.

For example: Because of the end of the cold war, the possibility of worldwide nuclear war has diminished precipitously, and the issue of the morality of nuclear weapons has faded.

Also: It has been a characteristic of Catholic social thought in this century to explore the possibilities of some “third way” beyond liberal capitalism and Marxism. As long as a second way existed (Marxism), it seemed plausible that there could be a third. But with the collapse of the second way, the search for some third way has become quixotic and quite academic. This is not to say liberal capitalism is beyond question. If you think it is, you haven’t heeded the papal social encyclicals. But the grand debate about economic “systems” is over, at least for the foreseeable future. The only question left is whether a market economy should be more or less regulated, a question which can quickly become quite technical.

While many political and economic issues have become less engrossing, other issues have become more so. In the mid-1960s a cultural revolution was launched, and, 30 years later, it has emerged triumphant. That revolution is about sex, drugs, abortion, and more, but at bottom it’s about the sovereign Self: “I’m going to do and think what I want, and no family or tradition or church is going to stop me.” It’s radical individualism, folks.

If there’s one form of Christianity that is not individualistic, it’s Catholicism, which is communitarian, hierarchical, and authoritative. Amazingly, individualism has invaded the Church in a big way. Its name is “Dissent.” When you peel away all its sophistries and euphemisms, and look beyond its front men, you see that what it wants is a green light for abortion, homosexual activity, priestesses, divorce, contraception, shacking-up, active euthanasia, heterodox interpretations of doctrine, New Age spins on spirituality, etc. It doesn’t want to hear about authoritative teaching or salvation from sin and Hell. Rather, it wants to warble about human potential and self-actualization.

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