|Vincent J. Miller|
At America's "In All Things" blog, Vincent J. Miller cites Robert Putman and David Campbell's American Grace to argue that the "current wave of increasing secular sentiment in which we currently live" is discontinuous from the critical reaction to belief that ensued from the "long sixties." The papacies of John Paul II and Benedict were, in key respects, molded by reaction to that previous moment of critical response to belief, and were an attempt to deal with it.
But the course taken by John Paul and Benedict and other conservatives reacting against the "long sixties" itself set into motion, Miller maintains, the wave of increasing secular sentiment in which we currently live. This wave "is not the further unfolding of 1968, but is rather a backlash against the conservative reaction that set in against it in the late 1970’s." And so,
Unbelief today, the rise of the so-called “nones” finds it origins in the era of John Paul and Benedict. That is not to say they caused it, but it does suggest that they have not found the answer either.
They have not found the answer either. Nor have we, he hastens to add. The task now facing the Catholic community is "to ask God how we can live the Gospel in a manner that speaks to a world, that as much as it needs the Gospel of Christ, does not have to listen to us."
As I think about what Miller is maintaining here, I wonder if God is already speaking to us about what is at least part of the answer to our question of proclaiming the gospel to a culture increasingly discontent with the kinds of religious answers provided by many faith-based communities in the period of conservative reaction to the "long sixties."
Part of the answer is that we have to bring into our Catholic conversation now as many voices as possible, if we expect to be credible as a catholic community, or one defending human rights, or one giving sacramental witness to God's all-embracing salvific love of the world. Miller rightly accents "living" the gospel--living it in a manner that speaks to the world.
Our living of the gospel has been, in this period of conservative reaction to the "long sixties," strongly tinged with strange exclusions that seriously undermine what we say about ourselves as a catholic community, or a community defending human rights, or one giving sacramental witness to God's all-embracing salvific love of the world. At an official level, in the governing structures of the Catholic church, women are excluded from that conversation.
Many Catholic academic institutions, those doing most of the intellectual talking about Catholic identity, tacitly or even overtly continue to treat gay and lesbian students, faculty, and staff as second-class citizens. In this way, they assure that the gay voice is not represented at the table, and that pride of place at the Catholic table and in conversations defining Catholic identity belongs exclusively to those who are heterosexual.
Many faculty in Catholic institutions, including theologians, who play a primary role in conversations defining Catholic identity, continue to appear oblivious to the unmerited exclusion of gay and lesbian voices from their conversations, and to the unmerited privilege of heterosexual scholars in Catholic institutions. Many theologians in Catholic institutions appear unwilling even to entertain discussion of these issues.
The result is that we do a lot of talking, but that talking means very little--particularly to the very people in the culture at large who, we maintain, should be looking to us for some answers. Or for some lively conversation about why faith matters. Or for lived witness to the gospel values we maintain we want to communicate to the world around us--chief among which are living in a catholic way, defending the human rights of all human persons, and giving sacramental witness to God's all-embracing salvific love of the world.
If we don't take advantage of the moment through which we're now living in the Catholic church to do something concrete to address these exclusions in the church's governing structures and in our academies, then we might as well accept that we'll be increasingly irrelevant to a culture repudiating religion as sham and pretense. And we perhaps should be rejected as irrelevant by that culture.