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The Sixties Are Still Here Print E-mail
By Bevil Bramwell, OMI   
Sunday, 23 March 2014

Lent is a good time to see where our pet behaviors come from. In the Western Church, many people’s thoughts and behaviors are substantially shaped, even now, by what happened years ago in the Sixties. They follow ways of thinking that originated then, waste their time reacting to them, or they ignore them hoping they will go away.

As at other disruptive times in history, basic ideas and ways of behaving were driven so deeply into people’s psyches that those of us who were not affected by the 1960s keep tripping over the debris, even today. It’s not just that many present-day Catholics grew up then, but some pass on what they learned then as if it is the new gospel. For me, life sometimes seems a constant search to comprehend clergy and laity who are pro-abortion, pro-contraception, pro-homosexual marriage, you-name-it and who still regard themselves as “Catholic.” I found a lot of light in the late Tony Judt’s sketch Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945. He wrote about Europe but much in U.S. society is derivative from what happens in Europe.

First, there was the exaggeration of the import of youthfulness. According to Judt: “At the very least, it seemed to many young people as though they had been born into a society reluctantly transforming itself. . .before their very eyes and at their behest.” There lies the rub. The Sixties young believed that they originated the meaning and the symbols of life. In their minds, at least collectively, they were separated from previous generations. So in brief – no  tradition and no Church, even as Vatican II recognized it.

In addition: “The youthful impulse of the Sixties was not about understanding the world.” Yikes! Understanding would get in the way of our self-involvement! For Judt, the purpose instead was “to change it.” (a la Marx) Two things followed: the first was the change-for-change-sake approach to Church teaching and practice. The other was a strange link to political agendas. In Europe, until the Eighties, the Church dominated some political parties. Then, with secularism, the parties themselves became dominant, and members twisted Church teaching to fit partisan positions. Sound familiar?

Oddly too, there was an emphasis on the style of clothing where “the generation of the Sixties placed unusual insistence upon looking different.” The roots, perhaps, of clergy concelebrating Mass without vestments today? The rejection of formality was widespread, confusing formality with formalism. Formality conforms the individual to the larger reality of the Church worshipping in Heaven.


       Tony Judt

A great illustration can be found in Sixties architecture. Regarding architectural design from that period, one can say that “sociologically and aesthetically it was rootless. . . .This break with the past was deliberate. . . .The 1960’s was self-consciously ahistorical.” Applied to the Church, the whole idea of the “Church” only starts the moment an individual starts thinking about it. Such thinking, however, does not refer to a real Church.

Judt comments that “architects and sociologists may not have understood that their projects would in one generation, breed social outcasts and violent gangs, but that prospect was clear enough to the residents.” There is an interesting parallel here with the effects of poor “theologies” that actually promote the culture of death. Those that ignore the Church, personhood, historicity, and the social matrix deprive humans of their humanity and make the culture of death seem tolerable, even a matter of common sense.

Judt lists authors who “sought to undermine the very concept of the human subject that had once underlain” so much thoughtful discourse. Out the window goes the data about human beings from revelation! This mainstream current depended on two common Sixties assumptions. The first, that power rests “upon the monopoly of knowledge. . .[which then required] repressing subversive ‘knowledges’.” So for Catholicism, its truth had to be replaced by various myths. Hence the “Whose orthodoxy?” question. Some Catholics were only too glad to help. The Marxist notion of substituting one “knowledge” for another to gain control of the social narrative underlay much “theological” writing in the Sixties and Seventies.

More worrisome still was the second assumption: “the seductive insistence upon subverting not just old certainties but the very possibility of certainty itself.” Until the Sixties, it was mostly believed that arguments could stand on their own, “independent of the persons making them.” But the tactic of discrediting what was said because it came from that person became a cheap and lazy commonplace. What was lost was the skill to judge when an argument is true.

So with the denial of what constitutes humanity and what constitutes truth, a large group of “Catholics” are propagating lethal ideas. Humanity is being diminished through impoverished thinking, but also through simply poor thinking. Let’s get the Church’s house in order. Why prolong the Sixties?

 
Fr. Bevil Bramwell, OMI PhD is the former Undergraduate Dean at Catholic Distance University. His books are Laity: Beautiful, Good and TrueThe World of the Sacraments, and, most recently, Catholics Read the Scriptures: Commentary on Benedict XVI’s Verbum Domini.
 
 
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Comments (18)Add Comment
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written by ken tremendous, March 22, 2014
In Europe, until the Eighties, the Church dominated some political parties. Then, with secularism, the parties themselves became dominant, and members twisted Church teaching to fit partisan positions. Sound familiar?

I don't deny that this happened on the Catholic Left. But the story of our age is the degree to which this has happened on the Catholic right...particularly on foreign policy and economics. Conservative Catholics have constructed a parallel reality where the Church agrees with their agenda of bitter opposition to all forms of redistribution despite the fact that redistribution was praised most recently by Benedict 8 times in Deus Caritatis Est. The same is true of the way COnservative Catholics ignore the yawning inequality in the developed world despite the fact that Church teaching has consistently stressed the need to ensure adequate distribution of property. And the same is found in the way Catholic social teaching is all but reduced to "subsidiarity" with that concept being reduced to an anti-government talking point. And we witness lately the mad dash by Conservative Catholics to "clarify" all the writings of the current Holy Father that do not genuflect to to the right-wing agenda of low taxes, unfettered markets and hostility to government programs that aid the poor.

Sadly Father most of what you accuse Catholic liberalism here is true but it is now no less true of right-leaning Catholics who have all but turned the Church into a needy client of the Republican party.
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written by DeGaulle, March 23, 2014
To me, the sixties may have been partly fostered by firstly a loss of confidence in civilisation by the survivors of the second world war, exacerbated by the prospect of nuclear annihilation. Perhaps this may have induced a parallel weakening of Faith, with the subsequent diminution of parental authority and excessive indulgence of the new 'peaceful' generation resulting in a spoiled mass of 'wild child' types, without boundary or self-doubt. Secondly, the Left undoubtedly exploited the genuine and just civil rights movement of the southern US of the early sixties to promote most successfully a mindless, worldwide and 'radical chic' rebellion against all traditional norms. Who knows when and where the disintegration induced by all this will end?
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written by schm0e, March 23, 2014
So how did these silly, self-absorbed ideas find their way into so many little heads in the 1960's?

Keep digging. You're getting closer.
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written by schm0e, March 23, 2014
What a coincidence! Today the New York Times runs a piece entitled "The Catholic Roots of Obama's Activism"

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written by Patrick, March 23, 2014
Ken - I just did a search of the text of Deus Caritas Est, and neither the word "equality" nor "redistribution" appear in it even once (at least in the English translation). The word "subsidiarity," which you seem to dismiss, does actually appear in the text. For example, "We do not need a State which regulates and controls everything, but a State which, in accordance with the principle of subsidiarity, generously acknowledges and supports initiatives arising from the different social forces and combines spontaneity with closeness to those in need."
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written by Michael Paterson-Seymour, March 23, 2014
I was in Paris during the heady days of les événements de mai 1968.
I recall a slogan that appeared everywhere and that seemed to sum up the mood of the entire Sixties generation – « Le futur n'a plus d'avenir » – The future has no future.

The great promise of the Enlightenment – that the future would be unlike the past, that it would be better – all that was over. The student riots were an assault that made no demands, a threat without a message; it was a resolute negation of politics. The politics of the old Left were particular objects of derision – « A bas le réalisme socialiste. Vive le surréalisme » - Down with Socialist Realisim. Long live Surrealism and « Je suis marxiste, tendance Groucho » - I am a Marxist, Groucho tendency.
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written by Mack Hall, March 23, 2014
Who, then, was empowered to disrupt what was left of civilization after World War II. A child born in 1946 was only 14 in 1960, and 24 in 1970. With exception of the occasional prodigy, this population group did not control, but was controlled in the 1960s. This population group did not write the songs in the 1960s, or design buildings, command armies, serve in elected positions, write books, program popular entertainment, or edit the news.

Who did?
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written by Augustine Thomas, March 23, 2014
Leftism ruins everything and Leftists should be fought like Nazis.. Too bad the Church is full of cowards and back stabbers who are too afraid to fight.
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written by cermak_rd, March 23, 2014
I think the crux of the 60s in the US was the Question Authority issue. And I think it was a good slogan. Until then, it seems that many routine violations of the Constitution were committed, such as rounding up American citizens and putting them in internment camps, violating the 14th Amendment protections of both women and people of color, and starting public school days with Christian prayers, to name just a few.

The problem with the Church was that when people questioned its authority they realized it had little power to enforce its norms; so they could live as they wanted and still call themselves Catholic ('cause they still were under Canon Law)
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written by CCR From Buenos Aires, March 23, 2014
Mack Hall: you read my mind. Lennon was born in 1941 (during a German raid on Liverpool) I belong (1954) to the generation that grew up in the shadow of the bomb. In fact the bomb and the pill are the two things that defined us. Now we can add abortion to it. As an exercise THINK what the young survivors of abortion are thinking right now. I remember thinking that I wanted to move to a big city so I did not have to die a slow death by radiation exposure. I was only seven years old and I was thinking of that. Now imagine what the kids think when they KNOW their parents generation has killed millions like them just because they could. That has to do something to one's mind.
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written by william manley, March 23, 2014
I often wonder how different our culture would be today if we had restrained ourselves from defending French colonialism in Vietnam. Eisenhower showed that restraint. Kennedy and Johnson did not. The result was the Question Authority movement referred to in an earlier comment.
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written by Gunnar, March 23, 2014
This is an interesting line of thought that I think sheds much light on the current divorced and remarried issue--as if this was not a problem that the Church already dealt with in Roman times, or in revolutionary France, etc. Many seem to approach the issue as if the Church's teaching and discipline regarding people in these situations are being considered for the first time. It is very ahistorical and self-centered of our current generation to do so. Maybe instead of trying to teach the Church how she should behave towards individuals facing such situations we should encourage people in such situations to turn to the Church to learn how they should behave.
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written by ken tremendous, March 23, 2014
@patrick

I stand corrected. The Encyclical is Caritas in Veritate not Deus Caritatis Est. The basic point remains. There is no way to reconcile Catholic social teaching with the current iteration of Republican economics. But that does not stop the Catholic right from twisting itself into pretzels trying.
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written by dave, March 23, 2014
@ ken tremendous -- I think you're right: I think that if one looks carefully at the programmatic direction the Church sets forth in all the social doctrine encyclicals, one cannot help but conclude that both the "Left" and the "Right" fall far short of the goal, which is subsidiarity. They fall short, too, because they are fundamentally materialist conceptions of the human person and human society. The Right does a better job, in my view, of recognizing the spiritual reality of the person and society, inasmuch as it is much less hostile to Tradition and tradition, though it is hostile to authentic tradition in ways that it hardly understands, since what passes for "conservatism" is actually the conservation of laissez-faire liberalism, and it falls short on social solidarity. The thing is, the Left falls short too, because redistribution entails wealth extraction administered by anonymous bureaucrats and gifting to people who come to see the gifts of aid as entitlements: we know the pathologies that ensue, and they are not based in race but in the effects that forced redistributionism has on extractee, extractor, and recipient.

All that said, one place to look for the start of all this is the Italian Communist theorist Antonio Gramsci and his Long March through the Institutions. The seeds of what happened in the 60s were planted in the 20s, 30s, and 40s -- when the intellectuals who oversaw and approved the student riots were themselves pursuing their doctoral studies and ensconcing themselves in the universities. Major universities were complicit too, for giving tenure to these professors; and they become complicit when prestige and power overtake Truth as the raison-d'etre of the educational enterprise. The Cult of Success has also brought us to this state of affairs, a cult that posits that others must fail in order that I succeed. Marxism, and the doctrine of progressivism which is its seedbed, is a key member of the Cult of Success: "progress" is the natural state of things, and that which is progressive simply must cause the failure of that which is not progressive.

Fr. Bramwell posits that we must get the Church in order by bringing the 60s to an end. This is a lot harder than it looks, since those who came of age in the 60s and 70s are the ones ensconced in the chanceries and universities. There are signs of hope amongst the younger clergy and the young men and women flocking to traditional religious orders, as well as those who seek to live integral orthodox lives assisted by organizations such as Opus Dei. Until these people come to positions of leadership, say in another ten years or so, we will continue with the dilemmas that we face, barring a miracle of which the good Lord is capable. The crisis is not over and it's bound to get worse before it gets better: but it will get better. We have Our Lord's promise that the gates of hell will not prevail against the Church. When the first Roman Empire collapsed, the Church was there to evangelize and rebuild. When the second Roman Empire collapses -- as it must -- the Church will be there to evangelize and rebuild. Now is the time of preparation. Now is the time for all of us to plunge deeply into the authentic teaching of the Church, into the perennial philosophy, and to pray, mortify, and look for people who are searching for the Truth. They are out there, but nemo dat quod non habet: you cannot give what you do not have. So: ora et labora: pray, and work.
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written by Thomas C. Coleman, Jr., March 24, 2014
I was glad to see these dreadful trends attribtued to Marxism in any way. I cannot apologize if any readers are tired of me connecting the evils that have befallen the Church and Western Civilization with the insidious carrying out of the schemes of Gramschi and other satanic Marxist fiends who who masterfully penetrated the Chruch like viruses and twisted the Words of both Our Savior and even the Vicars of Christ to convince people that the purpose of churches (since they have non inherent purposes) must be the levelling of of humanity and denial of all truths in the name of the chimera of social justice. We are powerless over this demon if we wiil not say it's name. Dietrich Von Hildrebrand predeicted this in his brilliant post conciliar critique of the then zeitgiest called A Trojan Horse in the city of God. I say that he predicted it, but in fact it was alreadyw well underway before Vatican II. That was the year of the Land O' Lakes Conference, a demonic event that could not have taken place unles the groudnwork had been laid well before the close of the council, a disaster that the destroyers merely used as a cover for their treachery.
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written by Ted Seeber, March 24, 2014
The goal of CST is not subsidiarity alone. It is subsidiarity joined with local solidarity. Subsidiarity alone, is what the Soviets had, with government owned businesses run by local committees that cared more for supporting the State than supporting the individual.

As for me, Je Sui Marxiste- Tendance REINHARD!
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written by Louise, March 24, 2014
Our Lady at Fatima had something to say about this...
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written by Chris in Maryland, March 25, 2014
What two things do Fr. Hesburgh of Notre Dame and Cardinal McCarrick have in common:

(1) crafted the "Land O' Lakes" manifesto; and
(2) worked to elect Barack Obama.

I bet they think the new "freedom of worship" paradigm is just fine. In fact, I bet they are helping to articulate it for the POTUS. I bet, as modern day "educators" they are helping the US Bishops to adopt the "katholic Common Core."

Fortnight of Freedom...signifying...NOTHING.

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