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NEW YEAR’S WISHES FOR SOME CATHOLIC BRETHREN

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The year ahead promises to be a challenging year for the Catholic Church. Thus some new year’s wishes:

I wish Catholic progressives a calmer 2017 than they managed in 2016. The last months of the year now fading into the rear-view mirror were marked by an extraordinary number of bilious attacks on those raising questions about Pope Francis’s apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia from the party of dialogue, collegiality, and pluralism. The biliousness was, to be sure, replicated in spades on traditionalist websites; I’ll get to that momentarily. Still, the gang that regularly declares itself the cutting edge of a Catholicism that has “turned the page” and “moved on” displayed an astonishing amount of defensiveness (often couched in cheesy psychologizing) in 2016. That behavior hardly suggests people confident of their position and the future of their project.

I wish Catholic traditionalists a 2017 in which they take comfort from the fact that the living parts of the world Church are those that have embraced all-in Catholicism, more formally known as the symphony of Catholic truth. The parallel fact, of course, is that Catholic Lite characterizes the dying parts of the Church in Europe and elsewhere; but I hope no one, wherever they’re located on the Catholic map, takes any satisfaction from that meltdown. Facts are facts, though, and if the progressive “narrative” of a great contemporary Catholic renaissance under the banner of mercy is ill-supported by the data, so is the traditionalist lament that the end is at hand. Thirty-five years of building the Church of the New Evangelization cannot be deconstructed in a relative blink of the eye. It just isn’t happening.

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