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The Roots of the Crisis That's Rocked the Pulpits and Emptied the Pews Many Catholics blame Vatican II for the decline of the Church in America these past 30 years: traditionalists say it caused too many changes, liberals say too few. In this groundbreaking book, sociologist David Carlin shows that although Vatican II was the flashpoint for change in the Church, the roots of today's crisis go deeper than anything that happened at the Council. Basing his conclusions on sociological analysis rather than on theology or Church teachings, Carlin shows that in the 1960's the Church in America was weakened by the triumph of tolerance as an American virtue (which led Catholics to downplay their uniquely Catholic beliefs for the sake of unity) and then was battered by a culture that, seemingly overnight, had become boldly secularist and even libertine. Called by Vatican II to engage the culture in order to evangelize it, while pressed by the culture to downplay its Catholicity in the name of tolerance, the Church in America lost its way. The result? A widespread loss of Catholic identity; weakening of fidelity to Church teachings; Catholics abandoning their faith; and a diminishment of the Church's role as a moral voice in American society. Carlin's analysis has uncovered a problem that's older and even more dangerous for the future of Catholicism than the deeds that have lately thrust the Church onto the front pages. Indeed, says Carlin, the scandals are merely symptoms of this deeper problem that will continue to drain the Church's vitality long after the scandals are forgotten. The Decline and Fall of the Catholic Church in America: essential reading for all who seek to understand the decline of their beloved Church and who hope to devise effective ways to restore her.
In this groundbreaking study, David Carlin shows that forty years ago the Church in America unwittingly sailed into a perfect storm spawned by the unprecedented confluence of three powerful social forces.
Changes introduced by Vatican II unsettled the self-identity of American Catholics just as their improved social status began to draw them from their Catholic enclaves into full communion with American culture. Then, as they struggled to adjust to unfamiliar roles in the Church and in society, American culture shifted out from under them, abandoning its traditional Protestant character to become openly secularist, libertine, and boldly anti-authoritarian.
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