Friday, October 15, 2004 +

What Epoch Is This?

An epoch-making book and the most influential pope in history have not prevented the deliquescence of Christian belief.

Excerpt from "Reconciling Judas: Evangelizing the Theologians," by Father Edward T. Oakes, S.J.:

Not many books have changed history, but [Ratzinger's Introduction to Christianity] certainly did, not just for the author personally but also for the wider Church. For it would be hard to exaggerate the influence of this bookish Bavarian, not just on John Paul II (perhaps the most influential pope in history) but on Catholics worldwide through the cardinal's role as doctrinal overseer and enforcer of magisterial orthodoxy....

...plummeting church attendance and a secular culture grown aggressively anti-Christian.... The Church now trumpets its gospel with a most uncertain tocsin. As the renowned historian of dogma Jaroslav Pelikan brutally observes in Christian Doctrine and Modern Culture (the fifth of his five-volume The Christian Tradition), "The modern period in the history of Christian doctrine may be defined as the time when doctrines that had been assumed more than debated for most of Christian history were themselves called into question: the idea of revelation, the uniqueness of Christ, the authority of Scripture, the expectation of life after death, even the very transcendence of God."

And though we trust that the Church is nowhere ... utterly deserted by the Spirit of truth, at least according to God's ordinary providence, yet may we not say that ... the grace of its ordinances, though not forfeited, at least flows in but a scanty or uncertain stream?

How else can we explain the dearth of vocations in the industrialized West, the empty churches in Europe, the abysmal ignorance of the Faith among nominal Christians, the closing of Catholic schools in this country and Canada, the notorious violation of their vows by some priests (however few or many that number may be), even the very fact that the internal precincts of the Church have become one of the battlefields in the Culture Wars?

For that reason, I hold that the primary cause of all that ails the Church in modern times stems from this prior capitulation to the Enlightened agenda so well adumbrated by Cardinal Ratzinger in his epochal book.